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VOL. I. 






The great work of Gibbon is indispensable to the student 
of history. The literature of Europe offers no substitute 
for "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire." It has 
obtained undisputed possession, as rightful occupant, of the 
vast period which it comprehends. However some subjects, 
which it embraces, may have undergone more complete 
investigation, on the general view of the whole period, this 
history is the sole undisputed authority to which all defer, 
and from which few appeal to the original writers, or to 
more modern compilers. The inherent interest of the sub- 
ject, the inexhaustible labor employed upon it ; the immense 
condensation of matter ; the luminous arrangement ; the 
general accuracy ; the style, which however monotonous 
from its uniform stateliness, and sometimes wearisome from 
its elaborate art, is throughout vigorous, animated, often 
picturesque, always commands attention, always conveys its 
meaning with emphatic energy, describes with singular 
breadth and fidelity, and generalizes with unrivalled felicity 
of expression ; all these high qualifications have secured, 
and seem likely to secure, its permanent place in historic 

This vast design of Gibbon, the magnificent whole into 
which he has cast the decay and ruin of the ancient civiliza- 
tion, the formation and birth of the new order of things, 
will of itself, independent of the laborious execution of his 
immense plan, render "The Decline and Fall of the Roman 
Empire " an unapproachable subject to the future historian : * 
in the eloquent language of his recent French editor, M. 
Guizot : — 

" The gradual decline of the most extraordinary do- 

* A considerable portion of this preface had already appeared before the 
public in the Quarterly Review. 


minion which has ever invaded and oppressed the world ; 
the fall of that immense empire, erected on the ruins of so 
many kingdoms, republics, and states both barbarous and 
civilized ; and forming in its turn, by its dismemberment, a 
multitude of states, republics, and kingdoms ; the annihila- 
tion of the religion of Greece and Rome ; the birth and 
the progress of the two new religions which have shared the 
most beautiful regions of the earth ; the decrepitude of the 
ancient world, the spectacle of its expiring glory and degen- 
erate manners ; the infancy of the modern world, the picture 
of its first progress, of the new direction given to the mind 
and character of man — such a subject must necessarily fix 
the attention and excite the interest of men, who cannot 
behold with indifference those memorable epochs, during 
which, in the fine language of Corneille — 

'Un grand destin commence, un grand destin s'aclieve.' " 
This extent and harmony of design is unquestionably 
that which distinguishes the work of Gibbon from all other 
great historical compositions. He has first bridged the 
abyss between ancient and modern times, and connected 
together the two great worlds of history. The great advan- 
tage which the classical historians possess over those of 
modern times is in unity of plan, of course greatly facilitated 
by the narrower sphere to which their researches were 
confined. Except Herodotus, the great historians of Greece 
— we exclude the more modern compilers, like Diodorus 
Siculus — limited themselves to a single period, or at least to 
the contracted sphere of Grecian affairs. As far as the 
Barbarians trespassed within the Grecian boundary, or 
were necessarily mingled up with Grecian politics, they 
were admitted into the pale of Grecian history ; but to 
Thucydides and to Xenophon, excepting in the Persian 
inroad of the latter, Greece was the world. Natural unity 
confined their narrative almost to chronological order, the 
episodes were of rare occurrence and extremely brief. To 
the Roman historians the course was equally clear and 


defined. Rome was their centre of unity; and the uni- 
formity with which the circle of the Roman dominion 
spread around, the regularity with which their civil polity 
expanded, forced, as it were, upon the Roman historian that 
plan which Polybius announces as the subject of his his- 
tory, the means and the manner by which the whole world 
became subject to the Roman sway. How different the 
complicated politics of the European kingdoms ! Every 
national history, to be complete, must, in a certain sense, be 
the history of Europe ; there is no knowing to how remote 
a quarter it may be necessary to trace our most domestic 
events ; from a country, how apparently disconnected, may 
originate the impulse which gives its direction to the whole 
course of affairs. 

In imitation of his classical models, Gibbon places Rome 
as the cardinal point from which his inquiries diverge, and 
to which they bear constant reference ; yet how immeasur- 
able the space over which those inquiries range ! how com- 
plicated, how confused, how apparently inextricable the 
causes which tend to the decline of the Roman empire! 
how countless the nations which swarm forth, in min^l'mo- 
and indistinct hordes, constantly changing the geographical 
limits — incessantly confounding the natural boundaries ! At 
first sight, the whole period, the whole state of the world, 
seems to offer no more secure footing to an historical ad- 
venturer than the chaos of Milton — to be in a state of irre- 
claimable disorder, best described in the language of the 
poet : — 

" A dark 

Illimitable ocean, without bound, 

Without dimension, where length, breadth, and height, 

And time, and place, are lost : where eldest Night 

And Chaos, ancestors of Nature, hold 

Eternal anarchy, amidst the noise 

Of endless wars, and by confusion stand." 

We feel that the unity and harmony of narrative, which 


shall comprehend this period of social disorganization, must 
be ascribed entirely to the skill and luminous disposition of 
the historian. It is in this sublime Gothic architecture of 
his work, in which the boundless range, the infinite variety, 
the, at first sight, incongruous gorgeousness of the separate 
parts, nevertheless are all subordinate to one main and pre- 
dominant idea, that Gibbon is unrivalled. We cannot but 
admire the manner in which he masses his materials, and 
arranges his facts in successive groups, not according to 
chronological order, but to their moral or political connec- 
tion ; the distinctness with which he marks his periods of 
gradually increasing decay ; and the skill with which, though 
advancing on separate parallels of history, he shows the 
common tendency of the slower or more rapid religious or 
civil innovations. However these principles of composition 
may demand more than ordinary attention on the part of 
the reader, they can alone impress upon the memory the 
real course, and the relative importance of the events. 
Whoever would justly appreciate the superiority of Gib- 
bon's lucid arrangement, should attempt to make his way 
through the regular but wearisome annals of Tillemont, or 
even the less ponderous volumes of Le Beau. Both these 
writers adhere, almost entirely, to chronological order; the 
consequence is, that we are twenty times called upon to 
break off, and resume the thread of six or eight wars in 
different parts of the empire ; to suspend the operations of 
a military expedition for a court intrigue ; to hurry away 
from a siege to a council ; and the same page places us in 
the middle of a campaign against the barbarians, and in the 
depths of the Monophysite controversy. In Gibbon it is 
not always easy to bear in mind the exact dates, but the 
course of events is ever clear and distinct ; like a skilful 
general, though his troops advance from the most remote 
and opposite quarters, they are constantly bearing down 
and concentrating themselves on one point — that which is 
still occupied by the name, and by the waning power of 


Rome. Whether lie traces the progress of hostile religions, 
or leads from the shores of the Baltic, or the verge of the 
Chinese empire, the successive hosts of barbarians — though 
one wave has hardly burst and discharged itself, before 
another swells up and approaches — all is made to flow in 
the same direction, and the impression which each makes 
upon the tottering fabric of the Roman greatness, connects 
their distant movements, and measures the relative import- 
ance assigned to them in the panoramic history. The more 
peaceful and didactic episodes on the development of the 
Roman law, or even on the details of ecclesiastical history, 
interpose themselves as resting-places or divisions between 
the periods of barbaric invasion. In short, though dis- 
tracted first by the two capitals, and afterwards by the 
formal partition of the empire, the extraordinary felicity of 
arrangement maintains an order and a regular progression. 
As our horizon expands to reveal to us the gathering tem- 
pests which are forming far beyond the boundaries of the 
civilized world — as we follow their successive approach to 
the trembling frontier — the compressed and receding line 
is still distinctly visible ; though gradually dismembered, 
and the broken fragments assuming the form of regular 
states and kingdoms, the real relation of those kingdoms to 
the empire is maintained and defined ; and even when the 
Roman dominion has shrunk into little more than the prov- 
ince of Thrace — when the name of Rome is confined, in 
Italy, to the walls of the city — yet it is still the memory, 
the shade of the Roman greatness, which extends over the 
wide sphere into which the historian expands his later narra- 
tive ; the whole blends into the unity, and is manifestly 
essential to the double catastrophe of his tragic drama. 

But the amplitude, the magnificence, or the harmony of 
design, are, though imposing, yet unworthy claims on our 
admiration, unless the details are filled up with correctness 
and accuracy. No writer has been more severely tried on 
this point than Gibbon. He has undergone the triple scru- 


tiny of theological zeal quickened by just resentment, of 
literary emulation, and of that mean and invidious vanity 
which delights in detecting errors in writers of established 
fame. On the result of the trial, we may be permitted to 
summon competent witnesses before we deliver our own 

M. Guizot, in his preface, after stating that in France 
and Germany, as well as in England, in the most enlight- 
ened countries of Europe^ Gibbon is constantly cited as an 
authority, thus proceeds : — 

" I have had occasion, during my labors, to consult the 
writings of philosophers, who have treated on the finances 
of the Roman empire ; of scholars, who have investigated 
the chronology; of theologians, who have searched the 
depths of ecclesiastical history ; of writers on law, who have 
studied with care the Roman jurisprudence ; of Oriental- 
ists, who have occupied themselves with the Arabians and 
the Koran ; of modern historians, who have entered upon 
extensive researches touching the crusades and their influ- 
ence ; each of these writers' lias remarked and pointed out, 
in the ' History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Em- 
pire,' some negligences, some false or imperfect views, some 
omissions, which it is impossible not to suppose voluntary ; 
they have rectified some facts, combated with advantage 
some assertions ; but in general they have taken the re- 
searches and the ideas of Gibbon, as points of departure, or 
as proofs of the researches or of the new opinions which 
they have advanced." 

M. Guizot goes on to state his own impressions on read- 
ing Gibbon's history, and no authority will have greater 
weight with those to whom the extent and accuracy of his 
historical researches are known : — 

"After a first rapid perusal, which allowed me to feel 
nothing but the interest of a narrative, always animated, 
and, notwithstanding its extent and the variety of objects 
which it makes to pass before the view, always perspicuous, 


I entered upon a minute examination of the details of which 
it was composed ; and the opinion which I then formed was, 
I confess, singularly severe. I discovered, in certain chap- 
ters, errors which appeared to me sufficiently important and 
numerous to make me believe that they had been written 
with extreme negligence ; in others, I was struck with a 
certain tinge of partiality and prejudice, which imparted to 
the exposition of the facts that want of truth, and justice, 
which the English express by their happy term misrepre- 
sentation. Some imperfect (tronquees) quotations ; some 
passages, omitted unintentionally or designedly, cast a 
suspicion on the honesty {bonne foi) of the author ; and his 
violation of the first law of history — increased to my eyes 
by the prolonged attention with which I occupied myself 
with every phrase, every note, every reflection — caused me 
to form upon the whole work, a judgment far too rigorous. 
After having finished my labors, I allowed some time to 
elapse before I reviewed the whole. A second attentive and 
regular perusal of the entire work, of the notes of the 
author, and of those which I had thought it right to sub- 
join, showed me how much I had exaggerated the impor- 
tance of the reproaches which Gibbon really deserved ; I 
was struck with the same errors, the same partiality on cer- 
tain subjects ; but I had been far from doing adequate 
justice to the immensity of his researches, the variety of 
his knowledge, and above all, to that truly philosophical 
discrimination (justesse d" 1 esprit) which judges the past as it 
would judge the present; which does not permit itself to 
be blinded by the clouds which time gathers around the 
dead, and which prevent us from seeing that, under the 
toga, as under the modern dress, in the senate as in our 
councils, men were what they still are, and that events took 
place eighteen centuries ago, as they take place in our days. 
I then felt that his book, in spite of its faults, will always 
be a noble work — and that we may correct his errors and 
combat his prejudices, without ceasing to admit that few 


men have combined, if we are not to say in so high, a degree, 
at least in a manner so complete, and so well regulated, the 
necessary qualifications for a writer of history." 

The present editor has followed the track of Gibbon 
through many parts of his work ; he has read his authori- 
ties with constant reference to his pages, and must pronounce 
his deliberate judgment in terms of the highest admiration 
as to his general accuracy. Many of his seeming errors are 
almost inevitable from the close condensation of his matter. 
From the immense range of his history, it was sometimes 
necessary to compress into a single sentence a whole vague 
and diffuse page of a Byzantine chronicler. Perhaps some- 
thing of importance may have thus escaped, and his expres- 
sions may not quite contain the whole substance of the pas- 
sage from which they are taken. His limits, at times, com- 
pel him to sketch ; where that is the case, it is not fair to 
expect the full details of the finished picture. At times 
he can only deal with important results ; and in his account 
of a war, it sometimes requires great attention to discover 
that the events, which seem to be comprehended in a single 
campaign, occupy several years. But this admirable skill 
in selecting and giving prominence to the points which are 
of real weight and importance — this distribution of light 
and shade — though perhaps it may occasionally betray him 
into vague and imperfect statements, is one of the highest 
excellencies of Gibbon's historic manner. It is the more 
striking, when we pass from the works of his chief author- 
ities, where, after laboring through long, minute, and weari- 
some descriptions of the accessary and subordinate circum- 
stances, a single unmarked and undistinguished sentence, 
which we may overlook from the inattention of fatigue, 
contains the great moral and political result. 

Gibbon's method of arrangement, though on the whole 
most favorable to the clear comprehension of the events, 
leads likewise to apparent inaccuracy. That which we ex- 
pect to find in one part is reserved for another. • The esti- 
mate which we are to form depends on the accurate balance 


of statements in remote parts of the work ; and we have 
sometimes to correct and modify opinions, formed from one 
chapter, by those of another. Yet, on the other hand, it is 
astonishing how rarely we detect contradiction ; the mind 
of the author has already harmonized the whole result to 
truth and probability ; the general impression is almost in- 
variably the same. The quotations of Gibbon have likewise 
been called in question ; — I have, in general, been more in- 
clined to admire their exactitude, than to complain of their 
indistinctness, or incompleteness. Where they are imper- 
fect, it is commonly from the study of brevity, and rather 
from the desire of compressing the substance of his notes 
into pointed and emphatic sentences, than from dishonesty, 
or uncandid suppression of truth. 

These observations apply more particularly to the ac- 
curacy and fidelity of the historian as to his facts ; his in- 
ferences, of course, are more liable to exception. It is al- 
most impossible to trace the line between unfairness and 
unfaithfulness ; between intentional misrepresentation and 
undesigned false coloring. The relative magnitude and im- 
portance of events must, in some respect, depend upon the 
mind before which they are presented ; the estimate of 
character, on the habits and feelings of the reader. Chris- 
tians, like M. Guizot and ourselves, will see some things, 
and some persons, in a different light from the historian 
of the Decline and Fall. We may deplore the bias of his 
mind ; we may ourselves be on our guard ngainst the 
danger of being misled, and be anxious to warn less wary 
readers against the same perils; but we must not confound 
this secret and unconscious departure from truth, with the 
deliberate violation of that veracity which is the only title 
of an historian to our confidence. Gibbon, it may be fear- 
lessly asserted, is rarely chargeable even with the suppression 
of any material fact, which bears upon individual character ; 
he may, with apparently invidious hostility, enhance the 
errors and crimes, and disparage the virtues of certain per- 
sons ; yet, in general, he leaves us the materials for forming 


a fairer judgment ; and if he is not exempt from his own 
prejudices, perhaps we might write passions^ yet it must be 
candidly acknowledged, that his philosophical bigotry is not 
more unjust than the theological partialities of those ecclesi- 
astical writers who were before in undisputed j)ossession of 
this province of history. 

We are thus naturally led to that great misrepresenta- 
tion which pervades his history — his false estimate of the 
nature and influence of Christianity. 

But on this subject some preliminary caution is neces- 
sary, lest that should be expected from a new edition, which 
it is impossible that it should completely accomplish. TTe 
must first be prepared with the only sound preservative 
against the false impression likely to be produced by the 
perusal of Gibbon ; and we must see clearly the real cause 
of that false impression. The former of these cautions will 
be briefly suggested in its proper place, but it may be as 
well to state it, here, somewhat more at length. The art 
of Gibbon, or at least the unfair impression produced by his 
two memorable chapters, consists in his confounding to- 
gether, in one indistinguishable mass, the origin and apos- 
tolic propagation of the new religion with its later progress. 
No argument for the divine authority of Christianity has 
been urged with greater force, or traced with higher elo- 
quence, than that deduced from its primary development, 
explicable on no other hypothesis than a heavenly origin, 
and from its rapid extension through great part of the 
Roman empire. But this argument — one, when confined 
within reasonable limits, of unanswerable force — becomes 
more feeble and disputable in proportion as it recedes from 
the birthplace, as it were, of the religion. The further 
Christianity advanced, the more causes purely human were 
enlisted in its favor : nor can it be doubted that those de- 
veloped with such artful exclusiveness by Gibbon did con- 
cur most essentially to its establishment. It is in the 
Christian dispensation, as in the material world. In both 


it is as the great First Cause, that the Deity is most undenia- 
bly manifest. When once launched in regular motion upon 
the bosom of space, and endowed with all their properties 
and relations of weight and mutual attraction, the heavenly- 
bodies appear to pursue their courses according to secondary 
laws, which account for all their sublime regularity. So 
Christianity proclaims its Divine Author chiefly in its first 
origin and development. When it had once received its 
impulse from above — when it had once been infused into 
the minds of its first teachers — when it had gained full pos- 
session of the reason and affections of the favored few — it 
might be — and to the Protestant, the rational Christian, it 
is impossible to define when it really vjcis — left to make its 
way by its native force, under the ordinary secret agencies 
of all-ruling Providence. The main question, the divine 
origin of the religion, was dexterously eluded, or speciously 
conceded by Gibbon ; his plan enabled him to commence 
his account, in most parts, below the apostolic times / and it 
was only by the strength of the dark coloring with which he 
brought out the failings and the follies of the succeeding ages, 
that a shadow of doubt and suspicion was thrown back up.on 
the primitive period of Christianity. 

" The theologian," says Gibbon, " may indulge the 
pleasing task of describing religion as she descended from 
heaven, arrayed in her native purity ; a more melancholy 
duty is imposed upon the historian : — he must discover the 
inevitable mixture of error and corruption which she con- 
tracted in a long residence upon earth among a weak and 
degenerate race of beings." Divest this passage of the 
latent sarcasm betrayed by the subsequent tone of the whole 
disquisition, and it might commence a Christian history 
written in the most Christian spirit of candor. But as the 
historian, by seeming to respect, yet by dexterously con- 
founding the limits of the sacred land, contrived to in- 
sinuate that it was an Utopia which had no existence but in 
the imagination of the theologian — as he suggested rather 


than affirmed that the days of Christian purity were a kind 
of j)oetic golden age ; — so the theologian, by venturing too 
far into the domain of the historian, has been perpetually 
obliged to contest points on which he had little chance of 
victory — to deny facts established on unshaken evidence — 
and thence, to retire, if not with the shame of defeat, yet 
with but doubtful and imperfect success. 

Paley, with his intuitive sagacity, saw through the dif- 
ficulty of answering Gibbon by the ordinary arts of con- 
troversy ; his emphatic sentence, " Who can refute a sneer ? " 
contains as much truth as point. But full and pregnant as 
this phrase is, it is not quite the whole truth ; it is the tone 
in which the progress of Christianity is traced, in comparison 
with the rest of the splendid and prodigally ornamented 
work, which is the radical defect in the u Decline and 
Fall." Christianity alone receives no embellishment from 
the magic of Gibbon's language ; his imagination is dead to 
its moral dignity : it is kept down by a general tone of 
jealous disparagement, or neutralized by a painfully elaborate 
exposition of its darker and degenerate periods. There are 
occasions, indeed, when its pure and exalted humanity, 
when its manifestly beneficial influence, can compel even 
him, as it were, to fairness, and kindle his unguarded 
eloquence to its usual fervor ; but, in general, he soon 
relapses into a frigid apathy ; affects an ostentatiously severe 
impartiality ; notes all the faults of Christians in every age 
with bitter and almost malignant sarcasm ; reluctantly, and 
with exception and reservation, admits their claim to admi- 
ration. This inextricable bias appears even to influence his 
manner of composition. While all the other assailants of 
the Roman empire, whether warlike or religious, the Goth, 
the Hun, the Arab, the Tartar, Alaric and Attila, Mahomet, 
and Zengis, and Tamerlane, are each introduced upon the 
scene almost with dramatic animation — their progress rela- 
ted in a full, complete, and unbroken narrative — the triumph 
of Christianity alone takes the form of a cold and critical 


disquisition. The successes of barbarous energy and brute 
force call forth all the consummate skill of composition ; 
while the moral triumphs of Christian benevolence — the 
tranquil heroism of endurance, the blameless purity, the 
contempt of guilty fame, and of honors destructive to the 
human race, which, had they assumed the proud name of phil- 
osophy, would have been blazoned in his brightest words — 
because they own religion as their principle sink into nar- 
row asceticism. The glories of Christianity, in short, touch 
on no chord in the heart of the writer ; his imagination re- 
mains unkindled ; his words, though they maintain their 
stately and measured march, have become cool, argumenta- 
tive, and inanimate. Who would obscure one hue of that 
gorgeous coloring in which Gibbon has invested the dying 
forms of Paganism, or darken one paragraph in his splendid 
view of the rise and progress of Mahometanism ? But who 
would not have wished that the same equal justice had been 
done to Christianity ; that its real character and deeply 
penetrating influence had been traced with the same philo- 
sophical sagacity, and represented with more sober, as 
would become its quiet course, and perhaps less picturesque, 
but still with lively and attractive descriptiveness ? Pie 
might have thrown aside, with the same scorn, the mass of 
ecclesiastical fiction which envelops the early history of the 
church, stripped off the legendary romance, and brought out 
the facts in their primitive nakedness and simplicity — if he 
had but allowed those facts the benefit of the glowing 
eloquence which he denied to them alone. He might have 
annihilated the whole fabric of post-apostolic miracles, if he 
had left uninjured by sarcastic insinuation those of the New 
Testament ; he might have cashiered, with Dodwell, the 
whole host of martyrs, which owe their existence to the 
prodigal invention of later days, had he but bestowed fair 
room, and dwelt with his ordinary energy on the sufferings 
of the genuine witnesses to the truth of Christianity, the 
Polycarps, or the martyrs of Vienne. 


And indeed, if, after all, the view of the early progress of 
Christianity be melancholy and humiliating, we must be- 
ware "lest we charge the whole of this on the infidelity of 
the historian. It is idle, it is disingenuous, to deny or to 
dissemble the early depravations of Christianity, its gradual 
but rapid departure from its primitive simplicity and purity, 
still more, from its spirit of universal love. It may be no 
unsalutary lesson to the Christian world, that this silent, 
this unavoidable, perhaps, yet fatal change shall have been 
drawn by an impartial, or even an hostile hand. The 
Christianity of every age may take warning, lest by its own 
narrow views, its want of wisdom, and its want of charity, 
it gives the same advantage to the future unfriendly his- 
torian, and disparage the cause of true religion. 

The design of the present edition is partly corrective, 
partly supplementary : corrective, by notes, which point out 
(it is hoped, in a perfectly candid and dispassionate spirit, 
with no desire but to establish the truth) such inaccuracies 
or misstatements as may have been detected, particularly 
with regard to Christianity; and which thus, with the pre- 
vious caution, may counteract to a considerable extent the 
unfair and unfavorable impression created against rational 
religion : supplementary, by adding such additional infor- 
mation as the editor's reading may have been able to fur- 
nish, from original documents or books, not accessible at the 
time when Gibbon wrote. 

The work originated in the editor's habit of noting on 
the margin of his copy of Gibbon references to such authors 
as had discovered errors, or thrown new light on the sub- 
jects treated by Gibbon. These had grown to some extent, 
and seemed to him likely to be of use to others. The an- 
notations of M. Guizot also appeared to him worthy of being 
better known to the English public than they were likely to 
be, as appended to the French translation. 

The chief works from w T hich the editor has derived his 
materials are, I. The French translation, with notes by M. 


Guizot; 2d edition, Paris, 1828. The editor has translated 
almost all the notes of M. Guizot. Where he has not alto- 
gether agreed with him, his respect for the learning and 
judgment of that writer has, in general, induced him to 
retain the statement from which he has ventured to differ, 
with the grounds on which he formed his own opinion. In 
the notes on Christianity, he has retained all those of M. 
Guizot, with his own, from the conviction, that on such a 
subject, to many, the authority of a French statesman, a 
Protestant, and a rational and sincere Christian, would ap- 
pear more independent and unbiassed, and therefore be more 
commanding, than that of an English clergyman. 

The editor has not scrupled to transfer the notes of M. 
Guizot to the present work. The well-known zeal for knowl- 
edge, displayed in all the writings of that distinguished 
historian, has led to the natural inference, that he would not 
be displeased at the attempt to make them of use to the 
English readers of Gibbon. The notes of M. Guizot are 
signed with the letter G. 

II. The German translation, with the notes of Wenck. 
Unfortunately, this learned translator died, after having 
completed only the first volume ; the rest of the work was 
executed by a very inferior hand. 

The notes of Wenck are extremely valuable ; many of 
them have been adopted by M. Guizot ; they are distin- 
guished by the letter W. # 

III. The new edition of Le Beau's " Histoire du Bas 
Empire, with notes by M. St. Martin, and M. Brosset." 
That distinguished Armenian scholar, M. St. Martin (now, 
unhappily, deceased) had added much information from 
Oriental writers, particularly from those of Armenia, as 
well as from more general sources. Many of his observa- 
tions have been found as applicable to the work of Gibbon 
as to that of Le Beau. 

*The editor regrets that he has not been able to find the Italian transla- 
tion, mentioned by Gibbon himself with some respect. It is not in our great 
libraries, the Museum or the Bodleian ; and he has never found any bookseller 
in London who bas seen it. 


IV. The editor has consulted the various answers made 
to Gibbon on the first appearance of his work; he must con- 
fess, with little profit. They were, in general, hastily com- 
piled by inferior and now forgotten writers, with the ex- 
ception of Bishop Watson, whose able apology is rather a 
general argument than an examination of misstatements. 
The name of Milner stands higher with a certain class of 
readers, but will not carry much weight with the severe in- 
vestigator of history. 

V. Some few classical works and fragments have come 
to light, since the appearance of Gibbon's History, and have 
been noticed in their respective places ; and much use has 
been made, in the later volumes particularly, of the increase 
to our stores of Oriental literature. The editor cannot, in- 
deed, pretend to have followed his author, in these glean- 
ings, over the whole vast field of his inquiries ; he may have 
overlooked or mav not have been able to command some 
works, which might have thrown still further light on these 
subjects ; but he trusts that what he has adduced will be of 
use to the student of historic truth. 

The editor would further observe, that with regard to 
some other objectionable passages, which do not involve 
misstatement or inaccuracy, he has intentionally abstained 
from directing particular attention towards them by any 
special protest. 

The editor's notes are marked M. 

A considerable part of the quotations (some of which in 
the later editions had fallen into great confusion) have been 
verified, and have been corrected by the latest and best 
editions of the authors. 

June, 1845. 

Ijn" this new edition, the text and the notes have been 
carefully revised, the latter by the editor. 

Some additional notes have been subjoined, distinguished 
by the signature M. 1845. 


It is not my intention to detain the reader by expatia- 
ting on the variety or the importance of the subject which I 
have undertaken to treat ; since the merit of the choice 
would serve to render the weakness of the execution still 
more apparent, and still less excusable. But as I have pre- 
sumed to lay before the public a first volume only* of the 
History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, it 
will, perhaps, be expected that I should explain, in a few 
words, the nature and limits of my general plan. 

The memorable series of revolutions, which in the course 
of about thirteen centuries gradually undermined, and at 
length destroyed, the solid fabric of human greatness, may, 
with some propriety, be divided into the three following 
periods : 

I. The first of these periods may be traced from the age 
of Trajan and the Antonines, when the Roman monarchy, 
having attained its full strength and maturity, began to 
verge towards its decline ; and will extend to the subver- 
sion of the Western Empire by the barbarians of Germany 
and Scythia, the rude ancestors of the most polished nations 
of modern Europe. This extraordinary revolution, which 
subjected Rome to the power of a Gothic conqueror, was 
completed about the beginning of the sixth century. 

II. The second period of the Decline and Fall of Roma 
may be supposed to commence with the reign of Justinian, 
who, by his laws, as well as by his victories, restored a 

* The first volume of the quarto, which contained the sixteen first chapters. 


transient splendor to the Eastern Empire. It Avill compre- 
hend the invasion of Italy by the Lombards ; the conquest 
of the Asiatic and African provinces by the Arabs, who 
embraced the religion of Mahomet ; the revolt of the Roman 
people against the feeble princes of Constantinople ; and 
the elevation of Charlemagne, who, in the year eight hun- 
dred, established the second, or German Empire of the 

III. The last and longest of these periods includes about 
six centuries and a half; from the revival of the Western 
Empire, till the taking of Constantinople by the Turks, and 
the extinction of a degenerate race of princes, who con- 
tinued to assume the titles of Coesar and Augustus, after 
their dominions were contracted to the limits of a single 
city ; in which the language, as well as manners, of the 
ancient Romans had been long since forgotten. The writer 
who should undertake to relate the events of this period, 
would find himself obliged to enter into the general history 
of the Crusades, as far as they contributed to the ruin of 
the Greek Empire ; and he would scarcely be able to 
restrain his curiosity from making some inquiry into the 
state of the city of Rome, during the darkness and confu- 
sion of the middle a^es. 

As I have ventured, perhaps too hastily, to commit to 
the press a work which, in every sense of the word, deserves 
the epithet of imperfect, I consider myself as contracting an 
engagement to finish, most probably in a second volume,* 
the first of the«e memorable periods ; and to deliver to the 
Public the complete History of the Decline and Fall of 
Rome, from the age of the Antonines to the subversion of 
the Western Empire. With regard to the subsequent 
periods, though I may entertain some hopes, I dare not 
presume to give any assurances. The execution of the 
extensive plan which I have described would connect the 

* The Author, as it frequently happens, took an inadequate measure of his 
growing' \vork. The remainder of the first period has filled two volumes in 
quarto, being the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth volumes of the octavo edition. 


ancient and modern history of the world ; but it would 
require many years of health, of leisure and of perseverance. 

Bentinck Street, February 1, 177G 

P. S. — The entire History, which is now published, of 
the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire in the West 
abundantly discharges my engagements with the Public. 
Perhaps their favorable opinion may encourage me to pros- 
ecute a work, which, however laborious it may seem, is the 
most agreeable occupation of my leisure hours. 

Bentinck Street, March 1, 1781. 

An Author easily persuades himself that the public 
opinion is still favorable to his labors; and I have now 
embraced the serious resolution of proceeding to the last 
period of my original design, and of the Roman Emjnre, the 
taking of Constantinople by the Turks, in the year one 
thousand four hundred and fifty-three. The most patient 
Reader, who computes that three ponderous * volumes have 
been already employed on the events of four centuries, may, 
perhaps, be alarmed at the long prospect of nine hundred 
years. But it is not my intention to expatiate with the 
same minuteness on the whole series of the Byzantine his- 
tory. At our entrance into this period, the reign of Jus- 
tinian, and the conquests of the Mahometans, will deserve 
and detain our attention, and the last age of Constantinople 
(the Crusades and the Turks) is connected with the revolu- 
tions of Modern Europe. From the seventh to the eleventh 
century, the obscure interval will be supplied by a concise 
narrative of such facts as may still appear either interesting 
or important. 

Bentinck Street, March 1, 17S2. 

* The first six volumes of the octavo edition. 


Diligence and accuracy are the only merits which an 
historical writer may ascribe to himself; if any merit, in- 
deed, can be assumed from the performance of an indispen- 
sable duty. I may therefore be allowed to say, that I have 
carefully examined all the original materials that could 
illustrate the subject which I had undertaken to treat. 
Should I ever complete the extensive design which has been 
sketched out in the Preface, I might perhaps conclude it 
with a critical account of the authors consulted during the 
progress of the whole work ; and however such an attempt 
might incur the censure of ostentation, I am persuaded that 
it would be susceptible of entertainment, as well as infor- 

At present I shall content myself with a single observa- 
tion. The biographers, who, under the reigns of Diocletian 
and Constantine, composed, or rather compiled, the lives of 
the Emperors, from Hadrian to the sons of Cams, are 
usually mentioned under the names of iElius Spartianus, 
Julius Capitolinus, JElius Lampridius, Vulcatius Gallicanus, 
Trebellius Pollio, and Flavius Vopiscus. But there is so 
much perplexity in the titles of the MSS., and so many 
disputes have arisen among the critics (see Fabricius, Bib- 
lioth. Latin. 1. iii. c. 6) concerning their number, their 
names, and their respective property, that for the most part 
I have quoted them without distinction, under the general 
and well-known title of the Augustan History. 





I now discharge my promise, and complete my design, of 
writing the History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman 
Empire, both in the West and the East. The whole period 
extends from the age of Trajan and the Antonincs to the 
taking of Constantinople by Mahomet the Second ; and in- 
cludes a review of the Crusades, and the state of Rome dur- 
ing the middle ages. Since the publication of the first 
volume, twelve years have elapsed ; twelve years, according 
to my wish, " of health, of leisure, and of perseverance." I 
may now congratulate my deliverance from a long and 
laborious service, and my satisfaction will be pure and per- 
fect, if the public favor should be extended to the conclu- 
sion of my work. 

It was my first intention to have collected, under one 
view, the numerous authors, of every age and language, 
from whom I have derived the materials of this history ; and 
I am still convinced that the apparent ostentation would be 
more than compensated by real use. If I have renounced 
this idea, if I have declined an undertaking which had ob- 
tained the approbation of a master-artist,* my excuse may 
be found in the extreme difficulty of assigning a proper 
measure to such a catalogue. A naked list of names and 
editions would not be satisfactory either to myself or my 
readers ; the characters of the principal )rs of the 
Roman and Byzantine History have been occasionally con- 

* See Dr. Robertson's Preface to his History of America. 



nected with the events which they describe ; a more copious 
and critical inquiry might indeed deserve, but it would de- 
mand, an elaborate volume, which might swell by degrees 
into a general library of historical writers. For the present, 
I shall content myself with renewing my serious protesta- 
tion, that I have always endeavored to draw from the foun- 
tain-head ; that my curiosity, as well as a sense of duty, has 
always urged me to study the originals; and that if they 
have sometimes eluded my search, I have carefully marked 
the secondary evidence, on whose faith a passage or a fact 
were reduced to depend. 

I shall soon revisit the banks of the Lake of Lausanne, a 
country which I have known and loved from my early 
youth. Under a mild government, amidst a beauteous 
landscape, in a life of leisure and independence, and among 
a people of easy and elegant manners, I have enjoyed, and 
may again hope to enjoy, the varied pleasures of retirement 
and society. But I shall ever glory in the name and char- 
acter of an Englishman : I am proud of my birth in a free 
and enlightened country ; and the approbation of that coun- 
try is the best and most honorable reward of my labors. 
Were I ambitious of any other Patron than the Public, I 
would inscribe this work to a Statesman, who, in a long, a 
stormy, and at length an unfortunate administration, had 
many political opponents, almost without a personal enemy ; 
who has retained, in his fall from power, many faithful and 
disinterested friends ; and who, under the pressure of severe 
infirmity, enjoys the lively vigor of his mind, and the felicity 
of his incomparable temper. Lord North will permit me 
to express the feelings of friendship in the language of 
truth ; but even truth and friendship should be silent, if he 
still dispensed the favors of the crown. 

In a remote solitude, vanity may still whisper in my ear, 
that my readers, perhaps, may inquire whether, in the con- 
clusion of the present work, I am now taking an everlasting 
farewell. They shall hear all that I know myself, and all 
that I could reveal to the most intimate friend. The mo- 


tives of action or silence are now equally balanced ; nor 
can I pronounce, in my most secret thoughts, on which side 
the scale will preponderate. I cannot dissemble that six 
ample quartos must have tried, and may have exhausted, the 
indulgence of the Public ; that, in the repetition of similar 
attempts, a successful Author has much more to lose than 
he can hope to gain ; that I am now descending into the 
vale of years ; and that the most respectable of my country- 
men, the men whom I aspire to imitate, have resigned the 
pen of history about the same period of their lives. Yet I 
consider that the annals of ancient and modern times may 
afford many rich and interesting subjects ; that I am still 
possessed of health and leisure ; that by the practice of 
writing some skill and facility must be acquired ; and that, 
in the ardent pursuit of truth and knowledge, I am not 
conscious of decay. To an active mind indolence is more 
painful than labor ; and the first months of my liberty will 
be occupied and amused. in the excursions of curiosity and 
taste. By such temptations, I have been sometimes seduced 
from the rigid duty even of a pleasing and voluntary task : 
but my time will now be my own : and in the use or abuse 
of independence, I shall no longer fear my own reproaches 
or those of my friends. I am fairly entitled to a year of 
jubilee; next summer and the following winter will rapidly 
pass away ; and experience only can determine whether I 
shall still prefer the freedom and variety of study to the 
design and composition of a regular work, which animates, 
while it confines, the daily application of the Author. Ca- 
price and accident may influence my choice ; but the dex- 
terity of self-love will contrive to applaud either active in- 
dustry or philosophic repose. 

Downing Street, May i, 1788. 

P. S. I shall embrace this opportunity of introducing 
two verbal remarks, which have not conveniently offered 


themselves to my notice. 1. As often as I use the defi- 
nitions of beyond the Alps, the Rhine, the Danube, &c, 
I generally suppose myself at Rome, and afterwards at 
Constantinople ; without observing whether this relative 
geography may agree with the local, but variable, situation 
of the reader, or the historian. 2. In proper names of 
foreign, and especially of Oriental origin, it should be al- 
ways our aim to express, in our English version, a faithful 
copy of t,he original. But this rule, which is founded on a 
just regard to uniformity and truth, must often be relaxed : 
and the exceptions will be limited or enlarged by the cus- 
tom of the language and the taste of the interpreter. Our 
alphabets may be often defective ; a harsh sound, an uncouth 
spelling, might offend the ear or the eye of our country- 
men ; and some words, notoriously corrupt, are fixed, and, 
as it were, naturalized in the vulgar tongue. The prophet 
Mohammed can no longer be stripped of the famous, though 
improper, appellation of Mahomet : the well-known cities 
of Aleppo, Damascus, and Cairo, would almost be lost in the 
strange descriptions of Ilaleb, Demashk, and ~ll Cahira : 
the titles and offices of the Ottoman empire are fashioned 
by the practice of three hundred years ; and we arc pleased 
to blend the three Chinese monosyllables, Con-fa-tzee, in 
the respectable name of Confucius, or even to adopt the 
Portuguese corruption of Mandarin. But I would vary the 
use of Zoroaster and Zerdusht^ as I drew my information 
from Grece or Persia: since our connection with India, the 
genuine Timour is restored to the throne of Tamerlane : 
our most correct writers have retrenched the Al, the super- 
fluous article, from the Koran ; and we escape an ambig- 
uous termination by adopting Moslem instead of Musulman, 
in the plural number. In these, and in a thousand exam- 
ples, the shades of distinction are often minute ; and I can 
feel, where I cannot explain, the motives of my choice. 

*i* At the end of the History, the reader will find a General Index to the 
whole Work, which has been drawn up by a person frequently employed in 
works of this nature. 





A. D. PAGE. 

Introduction 43 

Moderation of Augustus 44 

Imitated by his Successors 45 

Conquest of Britain, the lirst Kxception to it 46 

Conquest <>f Dacia, the second Exception to it 48 

Conquest-; of Trajau in the .Last 49 

Resigned by his Successor, Hadrian 50 

Contrast of Hadrian and Antoninus Pius 50 

Paeilic System of Hadrian and the two Antonines 51 

Defensive Wars of Marcus Antoninus 51 

Military Establishment of the Roman Emperors 51 

Discipline " 52 

Exercises 53 

The Legions under the Emperors 55 

Arms 55 

Cavalry 56 

Auxiliaries 58 

Artillery 58 

Encampment « 59 

March 59 

Number and Disposition of the Legions 60 

Navy % 61 

Amount of the whole Establishment 62 

View of the Provinces of the Roman Empire 62 

Spain 62 

Gaul 62 

Britain 63 

Italy 64 

Th a Danube and lllyrian Frontier 64 

Rhretia 65 

Noricum and Pannonia 65 

Dal matia 65 

Mresia and Dacia 66 

Thrace, Macedonia, and Greece 66 

Asia Minor 67 

Syria, Phoenicia, and Palestine 67 

Egvpt 69 

Africa 70 

The Mediterranean, with its Islands 71 

General Idea of the Roman Empire 72 





A. I). PAGE. 

Principles of Government 73 

Universal Spirit of Toleration 73 

Of the People 74 

Of Philosophers 75 

Of the Magistrates 77 

In the Provinces 77 

At Pome 77 

Freedom of Rome 79 

Italy -. 80 

The Provinces 81 

Colonies and Municipal Towns 82 

Division of the Latin arid the Greek Provinces 84 

General Use of both the Greek and Latin Languages 85 

Slaves 85 

Their Treatment 85 

Enfranchisement 88 

Numbers 89 

Populousness of the Roman Empire 90 

Obeditmce and Union 92 

Roman Monuments 93 

Many of them erected at private Expense 93 

Exam pie ot Herodes Atticus 94 

His Reputation 94 

Most of the Roman Monuments for public Use 96 

Tempies, Theatres, Aqueducts .. 96 

Number and Greatness of the Cities of the Empire 97 

In Italy 97 

Gaul aiid Spain .* 98 

Africa 98 

Asia 99 

Roman Roads 100 

Posts 100 

Navigation 101 

Improvement of Agriculture in the Western Countries of the Empire 101 

Introduction of Fruits, &c 102 

The Vine 102 

The Olive 103 

Flax 103 

Artificial Grasses 103 

General Plenty 103 

Arts of Luxury 103 

Foreign Trade 104 

GoM and Silver 105 

General Felicity 106 

Decline of Courage 106 

Decline of Genius 107 

Degeneracy 108 




Idea of a Monarchy 109 

Situation of Augustus 109 

He reforms the Senate 1 10 

Resigns his usurped Power Ill 

Is prevailed upon to resume it under the Title of Emperor, or General. Ill 

Power of the Roman Generals 112 

Lieutenants of the Emperor 113 


A. D. PAGE. 

Division of the Provinces between- the Emperor and the Senate 114 

The former preserves his military Command, and Guards, in Koine 

itself 114 

Consular and Tnbuniiian Powers 115 

Imperial Prerogatives 116 

The Magistrates 116 

The Senate 117 

General Idea of the Imperial System 118 

Court of the Emperors 118 

Deification lit) 

Titles of Augustus and Ccesar 120 

Character and Policy of Augustus 121 

Image of Liberty for the People 122 

Attempts of the Senate after the Death of Caligula 123 

Image of Government for the Armies. 123 

Their Obedience, 123 

Designation of a Successor 124 

Of Tiberius 125 

Of Titus 125 

The Race of the Cresars, and Flavian Family. . 125 

9G. Adoption and Character of Trajan 12G 

117. Of Hadrian 12G 

Adoption of the elder and younger Verus , 127 

138—180. Adoption of the two An fonines 127 

Character and Reign of Pius 128 

Character and Reign of Marcus 128 

Happiness of the Romans 130 

Its precarious Nature 130 

Memory of Tiberius. Caligula, Nero, and Domitian 131 

Peculiar Misery of the Romans under their Tyrants 131 

Insensibility of the Orientals 131 

Knowledge and free Spirit of the Romans 132 

Extent of their Empire left them no Place of Refuge 133 



Indulgence of Marcus 135 

To his Wife, Faustina 135 

To his Son Commodus 136 

180. Accession of the Emperor Commodus 136 

Character of Commodus 137 

His Return to Rome 138 

183. Is wounded by an Assassin 138 

Hatred and Cruelty of Commodus towards the Senate 139 

The Quin til ian Brothers 139 

186. The Minister Terennis HO 

Revolt of Maternus Ill 

The Minister Cleander 142 

Hi-; Avarice and Cruelty 112 

189. Sedition; and Death of Cleander 143 

Dissolute Pleasures of Commodus 144 

His Ignorance and low Sports > 144 

Hunting of wild Beasts 145 

Commodus displays his Skill in the Amphitheatre 14G 

Acts a-; a Gladiator 1 17 

His Infamy and Extravagance ' 148 

Conspiracy of his Domestics 148 

192. Death of Commodus 119 

Choice of Pert in ax for Emperor 119 

He is acknowledged by the Praitorian Guards 150 

193. And by the Senate 150 

The Memory of Commodus declared Infamous 150 

Legal Jurisdiction of the Senate over the Emperors 15J 


A. D. PAGE. 

Virtues of Pertinax 151 

He endeavors to reform the State 152 

His Regulations 152 

His Popularity 1 53 

Discontent of the Praetorians 154 

A Conspiracy prevented 154 

193. Murder of Pertinax by the Praetorians 155 




Proportion of the Military Force to the Number of the People 156 

The Praetorian Guards 156 

Their J nstitution 157 

Their Camp 157 

Strength and Confidence. . 157 

Their specious Claims 158 

They olfer the Empire to Sale 159 

193. It is purchased by Julian 159 

Julian is acknowledged by the Senate 160 

Takes Possession of the Palace , 160 

The public Discontent 161 

The Annies of Britain, Syria, and Pannonia declare against Julian.... 161 

Clodius Albinus in Biitain 161 

Pescennius Niger in Syria 163 

Pannonia and Dalmatia 164 

193. Septimius Severus 164 

Declared Emperor by the Pannonian Legions 165 

Marches into Italy 165 

Advances towards Rome 165 

Distress of Julian 166 

His uncertain Conduct 166 

Is deserted by the Praetorians 167 

Is condemn d and executed by Order of the Senate 167 

Disgrace of th-3 Praetorian Guards •. 168 

Funeral and Apotheosis of Pertinax 168 

193 — 197. Success of Severus a^aint Niger and against Aljinus 169 

Conduct of the two Civil Wars 169 

Arts of Severus 169 

Towards Niger 170 

Towards Albinus 171 

Event of the Civil Wars 171 

Decided by one or two Battles 172 

Siag3 of Byzantium 173 

Death of Niger and Albinus 174 

Cruel Consequences of the Civil Wars 174 

Animosity of Severus against the Senate 174 

The Wisdom and Justice of his Government 175 

General Peace and Prosperity 176 

Relaxation of military Discipline 176 

New Establishment of the Praetorian Guards 177 

The Office of Praetorian Prefect . 177 

The Senate oppressed by military Despotism 178 

New Maxims of the Imperial Prerogative 179 




A. D. PAGE. 

Greatness and Discontent of Severus 180 

His Wife, the Empress Julia 180 

Their two Sons, Caracalla and Geta 181 

Their mutual Aversion to each other 181 

Three Emperors 182 

208. The Caledonian War 182 

Fingal and his Heroes 183 

Contrast of the Caledonians and the Romans 183 

Ambition of Caracalla 183 

211. Death of Seterus, and Accession of his two Sons 184 

Jealousy ana Hatred of the two Emperors 181 

Fruitless Negotiation for dividing the Empire between them 185 

212. Murder of Geta. 186 

Remorse and Cruelty of Caracalla 186 

Death of Papinian 188 

213. His Tyra ny extended over the whole Empire 189 

Relaxation of Discipline 190 

217. Murder of Caracalla 192 

Imitation of Alexander 192 

Election and Character of Maerinus l<)2 

Discontent of the Senate 193 

Discontent of the Army 194 

Maerinus attempts a Reformation of the Army 194 

Death of the Empress Julia 195 

Education, Pretensions, and Revolt of Elagabalus, called at first Bas- 

sianus and Antoninus *. 196 

218. Defeat and Death of Maerinus 197 

Elagabalus writes to the Senate 108 

219. Picture of Elagabalus 198 

His Superstition 199 

His profligate and effeminate Luxury 200 

Contempt of Decency, which distinguished the Roman Tyrants 201 

Discontents of the Army 202 

221. Alexander Severus declared Caesar 203 

222. Sedition of the Guards, and Murder of Elagabalus 203 

Accession of Alexander Severus 203 

Power of his Mother Mamaea 203 

His wise and moderate Administration L04 

Education and virtuous temper of Alexander 205 

Journal of his ordinary Life * . 2C6 

222—235. General Happiness of the Roman World... 207 

Alexander refuses the Name of Antoninus L('8 

He attempts to reform the Army 208 

Seditions of the Pisetorian Guards, and Murder of Ulpian 209 

Danger of Dion Cassias .. 210 

Turn tilts of the Legions 210 

Firmness of the Emperor 210 

Defects of his Reign and Character 211 

Digression on the Finances of the Empire 212 

Establishment of the Tribute on Roman Citizens 213 

Abolition of the Tribute 213 

Tributes of the Provinces 214 

Of A-ia, Egypt, and Gaul 214 

Of Africa aiid Spain 215 

Of the Isle of Gyarus 215 

Amount of the Revenue 216 

Taxes on Roman Citizens instituted by Augustus 216 

I. The Customs 217 

IT. The Excise 218 

III. Tax on Legacies and Inheritances \ 218 


A. D. PAGE. 

Suited to the Laws and Manners 219 

Regulations of the Emperors 220 

Edict of Caracalla 220 

The Freedom of the City given to all Provincials for the Purpose of 

Taxation t 220 

Temporary Reduction of the Tribute 221 

Consequences of the universal Freedom of Rome 221 



The apparent Ridicule and solid Advantages of hereditary Succession 223 
Want of it in the Roman Empire productive of the gr^test Calamities 224 

Birth and Fortunes of Maximin 225 

His Military Service and Honors 225 

235. Conspiracy of Maximin 226 

Murder of Alexander Severus 226 

Tyranny of Maximin 227 

Oppression of the Provinces 228 

237. Revolt in Africa 230 

Character and Elevation of the two Gordians 230 

They solicit the Confirmation of their Authority 232 

The Senate ratiiies the Election of the Gordians 232 

Declares Maximin a pub-lie Enemy 233 

As-umes the Command of Rome and Italy 233 

Prepares for a Civil War 234 

237. Defeat and Death of the two Gordians 235 

Election of Maximus and JJalbmus by the Senate 235 

Their Characters 236 

Tumult at Rome 237 

The younger Gordian is declared Caesar 237 

Maxitni n prepares to attack the Senate and their Emperors 237 

238. Marches into Italy 239 

Siege of Aquileia 239 

Conduct of Maximus 240 

238. Murder of Maximin and his Son 241 

His Portrait 241 

Joy of the Roman World 241 

Sedition at Rome 242 

Discontent of the Praetorian Guards 242 

238. Massacre of "Maximus and Balbinus 244 

The third Gordian remains sole Emperor 244 

Innocence and Virtues of Gordian 245 

240. Administration of Misitheus 246 

242. The Persian War 246 

243. The Arts of Philip 247 

244. Murder of G vidian 247 

Form of a military Republic , , ,.. . 247 

Reign of Philip , , , 248 

248. Secular Games — , , 24s 

Decline of the Roman Empire — - . - • - , — , , 248 




The Barbarians of the East and of the North 251 

Revolutions of Asia .,.., 252 

The Persian Monarchy restored by Artaxerxes 253 

Reformation of the Magian Religion 254 


A. D. PAGE. 

Persian Theology, two Principles 256 

Religious Worship 257 

Ceremonies and moral Precepts 258 

Encouragement of Agriculture 259 

Power of the Magi 26<» 

Spirit of Persecution 2(1 

Establi.-hinent of the Royal Authority in the Provinces L62 

Extent and Population of Persia 203 

Recapitulation of the War between the Parthian and Roman Empires 264 

1G5. Cities of Seleucia and Ctesiphon 264 

216. Conquest of Osrhoene by the Romans 265 

230. Artaxerxes claims the Provinces of Asia, and declares War against 

the Romans 266 

233. Pre tended Victory of Alexander Severus 267 

More probable Account of the War 268 

240. Character and Maxims of Artaxerxes 269 

Military Power of the Persians 269 

Their Infantry contemptible 270 

Their Cavalry excellent 270 



Extent of Germany 272 

Climate 274 

Its Effects on the Natives 275 

Origin of the Germans 276 

Fables and Conjectures 276 

The Germans ignorant of Letters 278 

The Germans ignorant of Arts and Agriculture 279 

The Germans ignorant of the Use of Metals 280 

Their I ndolence 281 

Their Taste for st rong Liquors 281 

State of Population 283 

German Freedom 284 

Assemblies of the People 285 

Authority of the Princes and Magistrates 286 

More absolute over the Property than over the Persons ql the Germans 286 

Voluntary Engagements 286 

German Chastity 2S7 

Its probable Causes 288 

Religion 289 

Its EJfects in Peace 290 

Its Effects in War 290 

The Bards 291 

Causes which checked the Progress of the Germans 292 

Want of Arms 292 

Want of Discipline ; 293 

Civil Dissensions of Germany 294 

Fomented by the Policy of Rome 295 

Transient Union against Marcus Antoninus 295 

Distinction of the German Tribes 296 

Numbers 297 



248—268. The Nature of the Subject 298 

The Emperor Philip 298 

249. Services, Revolt, Victory, and Reign of the Emperor Decius 299 

250. He marches against the Goths 300 



A. D. PAGE. 

Origin of the Goths from Scandinavia 300 

Religion of the Goths , 301 

Institutions and Death of Odin 302 

Agreeable, but uncertain, Hypothesis concerning Odin 302 

Emigration of the Goths from Scandinavia into Prussia 303 

Emigration from Prussia to the Ukraine 304 

The Gothic Nation increases in its March 305 

Distinction of the Germans and Sarmatians 306 

Description of the Ukraine 307 

The Goths invade the Roman Provinces 307 

250. Various Events of the Gothic War 308 

251. Decius revives the Office of Censor in the Person of Valerian 309 

The Design impracticable and without. Effect 310 

Defeat and Death of Decius and his Son 31 1 

251. Election of Gallus 312 

252. Retreat of the Goths 312 

Gallus purchases Peace by the Payment of an annual Tribute. 312 

Popular Discontent 313 

253. Victory and Revolt of JEmilianus 314 

Gallus abandoned and slain 311 

Valerian revenges the Death of Gallus 315 

Valerian is acknowledged Emperor 315 

Character of Valerian 315 

253—238. General Misfortunes of the Reigns of Valerian and Gallienus 316 

Inroads of the Barbarians '. 316 

Origin and Confederacy of the Franks 316 

They invade Gaul 318 

Ravage Spain 318 

Pass over into Africa 318 

Origin and Renown of the Suevi 319 

A mixed Body of Suevi assume the Name of Alemanni 319 

Invade Gaul and Italy 320 

Are repulsed from Rome by the Senate and People 320 

The Senators excluded by Gallienus from the Military Service 321 

Gallienus contracts an Alliance with the Alemanni 321 

Inroads of the Goths 322 

Conquest of the Bosphorus by the Goths 322 

The Goths acquire a Naval Force 323 

First Naval Expedition of the Goths 321 

The Goths besiege and take Trebizond , 324 

The Second Expedition of the Goths 325 

They plunder the Cities of Bithynia 326 

Retreat of the Goths 326 

Third Naval Expedition of the Goths ... 327 

They pass the Bosphorus and the Hellespont 327 

Ravage Greece and threaten Italy 328 

Their Divisions and Retreat 328 

Ruin of the Temple of Ephesus 3:9 

Conduct of the Goths at Athens 330 

Conquest of Armenia by the Persians 331 

Valerian marches into the East 331 

260. Is defeated and taken Prisoner by Sapor, King of Persia 331 

Sapor overruns Syria, Cilicia, and Capparlooia 33'; 

Boldness and Success of Odenathus against Sapor 331 

Treatment of Valerian 334 

Character and Administration of Gallienus 335 

The Thirty Tyrants 336 

Their real Number not more than Nineteen 337 

Character and Merit of the Tyrants 338 

Their obscure Birth 338 

The Causes of their Rebellion 339 

Their violent. Deaths 339 

Fatal Consequences of these Usurpations 340 

Disorders of Sicilv 341 

Tumults of Alexandria 342 

Rebellion of the Isaurians 3i3 

Famine and Pestilence {■'A3 

Diminution of the Human Species 344 





A. D. RAGE. 

268. Aureolus invades Italy, is defeated and besieged at Milan 345 

Dea.h of Gallienus 346 

Character and Elevation of the Emperor Claudius 346 

268. Death of Aureolus 347 

Clemency and Justice of Claudius. 348 

He undertakes the Reformation of the Army 349 

269. The Goths invade the Empire 350 

Distress and Firmness of Claudius 351 

His Victory over the Goths 351 

270. Death of the Emperor, who recommends Aurelian for his Successor... 352 

The Attempt and Fall of Quintilius 352 

Origin and Services of Aurelian 353 

Aurelian's successful Keign 354 

His severe Discipline 354 

He concludes a Treaty with the Goths 355 

He resigns to them the Province of Dacia 356 

270. The Alemannic War 357 

The Alemanni invade Italy 359 

They are at last vanquished by Aurelian , 3G0 

271. Superstitious Ceremonies 360 

Fortifications of Koine 360 

271. Aurelian suppresses the two Usurpers 362 

Succession of Usurpers in Caul 3(2 

271. The Keign and Defeat of Tetricus . 3G2 

272. Character of Zenobia 364 

Her Beauty and Learning 364 

Her Valor 364 

She revenges her Husband's Death 365 

She reigns over the East and Egypt 365 

272 The Expedition of Aurelian 366 

The Emperor defeats the Palmyrenians in the Battles of Antioch 

Emesa 367 

The State of Palmyra 368 

It is besieged by Aurelian 369 

273. Aurelian becomes Master of Zenobia, and of the City 370 

Behavior of Zenobia ^ 370 

Rebellion and Ruin of Palmyra 371 

Aurelian suppresses the Rebellion of Firmus in Egypt 371 

274. Triumph of Aurelian 372 

His Treatment of Tetricus and Zenobia 373 

His Magnificence and Devotion 374 

He suppresses a Sedition at Rome 375 

Observations upon it 375 

Cruelty of Aurelian 376 

275. He marches into the East, and is assassinated 377 



Extraordinary Contest between the Army and the Senate for the 

Choice of an Emperor 379 

275. A peaceful Interregnum of eight Months 380 

The Consul assembles the Senate 381 

Character of Tacitus 382 

H e is elected Em peror 382 

He accepts the Purple 383 

Authority of the Senate 384: 

Their Joy and Confidence 384 

276. Tacitus is acknowledged by the Army 385 


A. D. PAGE. 

The Alani invade Asia, and are repulsed by Tacitus 386 

276. Death of the Emperor Tacitus 387 

Usurpation and Death of his Brother Florianus 387 

Their Family subsists in Obscurity 387 

Character and Elevation of the Emperor Probus.. 388 

His respectful Conduct towards tbc Senate 389 

Victories of Probus over the Barba" ians 390 

277. He delivers Gaul from the Invasion of the Germans 391 

He carries his Arms into Germany 392 

He builds a Wall from the Rhine to the Danube 393 

Introduction and Settlement of the Barbarians 394 

Daring Enterprise of the Franks 396 

279. Revolt of Saturninus in the East 396 

280. Revolt of Bonosus and Proculus in Gaul 397 

281. Triumph of the Emperor Probus 398 

His Discipline 398 

282. His Death 399 

Election and Character of Cams 399 

The Sentiments of the Senate and People 400 

Carus defeats the Sarmatians, and marches into the East . 401 

283. He gives Audience to the Persian Ambassadors 402 

283. His Victories, and extraordinary Death 403 

He is succeeded by hit; two Sons, Carinus and Numerian 403 

284. Vices of Carinus 404 

He celebrates the Roman Games 406 

Spectacles of Rome 406 

The Amphitheatre 407 

Return of Numerian with the Army from Persia 409 

Death of Numerian 4xo 

284. Election of the Emperor Diocletian 410 

285. Defeat and Death of Carinus , ■ 412 



285. Elevation and Character of Diocletian 413 

His Clemency in Victory 414 

286. Association and Character of Maximian 415 

292. Association of two Caesars, Galerius and Constantius 416 

Departments and Harmony of the four Princes 417 

Series of Events : 418 

287. State of the Peasants of Gaul .'418 

Their Rebellion 419 

And Chastisement; 419 

287. Revolt of Carausius in Britain 419 

Importance of B i iiain 420 

Power of Carausius 421 

289. Acknowledged by the other Emperors 422 

294. His Death 422 

296. Recovery of Britain by Constantius 423 

Defenceof the Frontiers 423 

Fortifications 423 

Dissensions of the Barbarians 424 

Conduct of the Emperors 424 

Valor of the Caasars 424 

Treatment of the Barbarians 425 

Wars of Africa and Egypt 426 

296. Conduct of Diocletian in Egypt 426 

He suppresses Books of Alchemy 428 

Novelty and Progress of that Art 428 

The Persian War 428 

282. Tiridates the Armenian 428 

2S6. His Restoration to the Throne of Armenia 429 


A. D. PAGE. 

State of the Country 429 

Revolt of the People and Nobles 430 

Story of Miiingo 430 

The Persians recover Armenia 431 

296. War between the Persians and the Romans . . . . 432 

Defeat of Galerius 433 

His Reception by Diocletian 433 

297. Second Campaign of (Valerius 434 

His Victory 434 

His Behavior to his Royal Captives 435 

Negotiation for Peace . . 435 

Speecli of the Persian Ambassador 435 

Answer of Galerius ' 436 

Moderation of Diocletian 436 

Conclusion of a Treaty of Peace 437 

Articles of the Treaty 437 

The Aboras fixed as the Limits between the Empires 438 

Cession of five Provinces beyond the Tigris 438 

A rmenia 439 

Iberia 439 

303. Triumph of Diocletian and Maximian 440 

Long Absence of the Emperors from Rome 440 

Their Residence at Milan 442 

Their Residence at Nicomedia 442 

Debasement of Rome and of the Senate 442 

New Bodies of Guards, Jovians and Herculians 443 

Civil Magistracies laid aside 444 

Imperial Dignity and Titles 444 

Diocletian assumes the Diadem, and introduces the Persian Ceremonial 445 

New Form of Administration, two Augusti and two Ca?sars 447 

Increase of Taxes r 448 

A bdication of Diocletian and Maximian 449 

Resemblance to Charles the Fifth 449 

304. Long Illness of Diocletian 450 

His Prudence 450 

Compliance of Maximian 451 

Ret irement of Diocletian at Salona 452 

His Philosophy 452 

313. His Death 453 

Description of Salona and the adjacent Country 453 

Of Diocletian's Palace 454 

Decline of the Arts ' 455 

Decline of Letters : 456 

The New Platonists 456 



305—323. Period of Civil Wars and Confusion 458 

Character and Situation of Constantius 458 

Of Galerius 459 

The two Caesars, Severus and Maximin 4C0 

Ambition of Galerius disappointed by two Revolutions 461 

274. Birth, Education, and Escape of ( on'stantine 461 

306. Death of Constantius, and Elevation of Constantine 463 

He is acknowledged by Galerius, who gives him only the title of Cae- 
sar, and that of Augustus .0 Severus 464 

The Brothers and Sisters of Constantine 4C5 

Discontent of The Romans at the A pprehension of Taxes 466 

306. Maxentitis declared Emperor at Rome 467 

Maximian reassumes the Purple 407 

307. Defeat and Death of Severus 468 


A. D. PAGE. 

Maximian gives his Daughter Fausta, and the title of Augustus, to 

Constantino 469 

Galerius invades Italy , 4»i9 

His Retreat 47 1 

307. Elevation of Licinius to the Hank of Augustus 472 

Elevation of Maximin 472 

308. Six Emperors 472 

Misfortunes of Maximian ^ 473 

310. His Death 474 

311. Death of Galerius 475 

His Dominion shared between Maxiniin and Licinius 476 

306 — 312. Administration of Constan tine in Gaul 476 

Tyranny of Maxentius in Italy and Africa 477 

312. Civil War between Constan tine and Maxentius 478 

Preparations . . 479 

Constantine passes the Alps 481 

Battle of Turin 482 

Siege and Battle of Verona 483 

Indolence and Fears of Maxentius 484 

312. Victory of Constantine near Home 485 

His Reception 488 

His Conduct at Rome 488 

313. His Alliance with Licinius 489 

War between Maxiniin and Licinius 4S0 

The Defeat of Maxiinin 490 

His Death 490 

Cruelty of Licinius 491 

Unfortunate Fate of the Empress Valeria and her Mother 492 

314. Quarrel between Constantine and Licinius 494 

First Civil War between them 494 

314 Battle of Cy balis 494 

Battle of Mardia 495 

Treaty of Peace 436 

315 — .^23. General Peace and Laws of Constantine 497 

322. The Gothic War 500 

323. Second Civil War between Constantine and Licinius 501 

Battle of Hadrianople 502 

Siege of Byzantium, and ISaval Victory of Crispus 503 

Battle of Chrysopolis 505 

Submission and Death of Licinius 505 

324. Reunion of the Empire 506 



Importance of the Inquiry 507 

Its Difficulties 507 

Five Causes of the Growth of Christianity 508 

I. The First Cause. Zeal of the Jews 508 

Its gradual Increase 512 

Their Religion better suited to Defence than to Conquest 513 

More liberal Zeal of Christianity • 514 

Obstinacy and Reasons of the believing Jews 515 

The Nazarene Church of Jerusalem 515 

The Ebionites 518 

The Gnostics 520 

Their Sects, Progress, and Influence 522 

The Daemons considered as the Gods of Antiquity 524 

Abhorrence of the Christians for Idolatry 524 

Ceremonies 525 

Arts 526 

Festivals 526 

Zeal for Christianity , 527 


A « D - PAGE. 

II. The Second Cause. The Doctrine of the Immortality of the 

Soul among the Philosophers 528 

Among the Pagans of Greece and Pome 529 

Among the Barbarians and the Jews 530 

Among the Christ ians _ 532 

Approaching End of the World 532 

Doctrine of the Millennium 533 

Conflagration of Pome and of the World 535 

The Paeans devoted to eternal Punishment 536 

Were often converted by their Fears 538 

III. The Third Cause. Miraculous Powers of the Primitive Church 538 

Their Truth contested 540 

Our Perplexity in defining the Miraculous Period 540 

Use of the Primitive Miracles 542 

IV. The Fourth Cause. Virtues of the first Christians 543 

Effects of their Repentance 543 

Care of their Reputation 544 

Morality of the Fathers 545 

Principles of Human Nature . . . 545 

The primitive Christians condemn Pleasure and Luxury 546 

Their Sentiments concerning Marriage and Chastity 547 

Their Aversion to the Business of War and Government 549 

V. The Fifth Cause. The Christians active in the Government 

of the Church 551 

Its primitive Freedom and Equality 552 

Institution of Bishops as Presidents of the College of Presbyters. 553 

Provincial Councils 55 j 

Union of the Church 556 

Progress of Episcopal Authority 556 

Pre-eminence of the Metropolitan Churches 558 

Ambition of the Roman Pontiff 558 

Laity and Clergy 559 

Oblations and Revenue of the Church 560 

Distribution of the Revenue 563 

Excommunication 564 

Public Penance 565 

The Dignity of Episcopal Government 566 

Recapitulation of the Five Causes 567 

Weakness of Polytheism 568 

The Scepticism of the Pagan World proved favorable to the new 

Religion 569 

And to the Peace and Union of the Roman Empire 570 

Historical View of the Progress of Christianity 571 

In the East 1 571 

The Church of Antioch 572 

In Egypt 573 

In Rome 574 

In Africa and the Western Provinces 575 

Beyond the Limits of the Roman Empire 577 

General Proportion of Christians and Pagans 578 

Whether the first Christians were mean and ignorant 579 

Some Exceptions with regard to Learning 579 

With regard to Rank and Fortune 580 

Christianity most favorably received by the Poor and Simple 581 

Rejected by some eminent Men of the first and second Centuries 581 

Their Neglect of Prophecy 582 

Their Neglect of Miracles ... 583 

General Silence concerning the Darkness of the Passion 584 




A. D. PAGE. 

Christianity persecuted by the Roman Emperors , 586 

Inquiry into their Motives 5^7 

Rebellious Spirit of the Jews 588 

Toleration of the Jewish religion 589 

The Jews were a People which followed, the Christians a Sect which 

deserted, the Religion of their Fathers 590 

Christianity accused of Atheism, and mistaken by the People and 

Philosophers 591 

The Union and Assemblies of the Christians considered as a danger- 
ous Conspiracy 593 

Their Manners calumniated 595 

Their imprudent Defence 595 

Idea of the Conduct of the Emperors towards the Christians 597 

They neglected the Christians as a Sect of Jews 598 

The Fire of Rome under the Reign of Nero GOO 

Cruel Punishment of the Christians as the Incendiaries of the City . . . 601 
Remarks on the Passage of Tacitus relative to the Persecution of the 

Christians by Xero 602 

Oppression of the Jews and Christians by Domitian , 605 

Execution of Clemens the Consul 607 

Ignorance of Pliny concerning the Christians 608 

Trajan and his Successors establish a legal Mode of proceeding against 

them 609 

Popular Clamors 610 

Trials of the Christians 012 

Humanity of the Roman Magistrates 613 

Inconsiderable Number of Martyrs 614 

Example of Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage 616 

His Danger and Flight 616 

257. His Banishment 617 

His Condemnation 618 

His Martyrdom 619 

Various Incitements to Martyrdom 020 

Ardor of the First Christians 022 

Gradual Relaxation 623 

Three Methods of escaping Martyrdom 624 

Alternatives of Severity and Toleration 626 

The Ten Persecutions 026 

Supposed Edicts of Tiberius and Marcus Antoninus 626 

180. State of the Christians in the Reigns of Commodus and Severus 627 

21 1—249. Of the Successors of Severus 629 

244. Of Maximin, Philip and Decius 631 

252—260. Of Valerian, Gallienus and his Successors 632 

260. Paul of Samosata, his Manners 633 

270. He is degraded from the See of A ntioch 634 

274. 'Ihe Sentence is executed by Aurelian 635 

284—303. Peace and Prosperity of the Church under Diocletian 635 

Progress of Zeal and Superstition among the Pagans , 637 

Maximian and Galerius punish a few Christian Soldiers 039 

Galerius prevails on Diocletian to begin a general Persecution GJ0 

303. Demolition of the Church of Nicomedia 642 

The first Edict against the Christians 642 

Zeal and Punishment of a Christian 643 

Fire of the Palace of Nicomedia imputed to the Christians — 644 

Execution of the first Edict 645 

Demolition of the Churches 046 

Subsequent Edicts 647 

303—311. General Idea of the Persecution 048 

In the Western Provinces, under Constantius and Constantine ... . 648 

In Italy and Africa, under Maximian and Severus 649 

Under Maxentius 650 


A. D. PAGE. 

In Illyricum and the East, under Galerius and Maximian 652 

311. Galerius publishes an Edict of Toleration 663 

Peace of the Church 654 

Maximin prepares to renew the Persecution 654 

13. End of the Persecutions 056 

Probable Account of the Sufferings of the Martyrs and Confessors .... 656 

Number of Martyrs 659 

Conclusion 661 









In the second century of the Christian ./Era, the Empire 
of Rome comprehended the fairest part of the earth, and 
the most civilized portion of mankind. The frontiers of 
that extensive monarchy'were guarded by ancient renown 
and disciplined valor. The gentle but powerful influence of 
laws and manners had gradually cemented the union of the 
provinces. Their peaceful inhabitants enjoyed and abused 
the advantages of wealth and luxury. The image of a free 
constitution was preserved with decent reverence : the 
Roman senate appeared to possess the sovereign authority, 
and devolved on the emperors all the executive powers of 
government. During a happy period of more than four- 
score years, the public administration was conducted by the 
virtue and abilities of Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, and the two 
Antonines. It is the design of this, and of the two succeed- 
ing chapters, to describe the prosperous condition of their 
empire; and afterwards, from the death of Marcus Anto- 
ninus, to deduce the most important circumstances of its 
decline and fall ; a revolution which will ever be remem- 
bered, and is still felt by the nations of the earth. 

The principal conquests of the Romans were achieved 



under the republic; and the emperors, for the most part, 
Were satisfied with preserving those dominions which had 
been acquired by the policy of the senate, the active emula- 
tion of the consuls, and the martial enthusiasm of the people. 
The seven first centuries were filled with a rapid succession 
of triumphs ; but it was reserved for Augustus to relinquish 
the ambitious design of subduing the whole earth, and to in- 
troduce a spirit of moderation into the public councils. In- 
clined to peace by his temper and situation, it was easy for 
him to discover that Rome, in her present exalted situation, 
had much less to hope than to fear from the chance of arms ; 
and that, in the prosecution of remote Avars, the undertaking 
became every day more difficult, the event more doubtful, 
and the possession more precarious, and less beneficial. The 
experience of Augustus added weight to these salutary re- 
flections, and effectually convinced him that, by the prudent 
vigor of his counsels, it would be easy to secure every con- 
cession which the safety or the dignity of Rome might re- 
quire from the most formidable barbarians. Instead of 
exposing his person and his legions to the arrows of the 
Parthian s, he obtained, by an honorable treaty, the restitu- 
tion of the standards and prisoners which had been taken in 
the defeat of Crassus. 1 

His generals, in the early part of his reign, attempted 
the reduction of Ethiopia and Arabia Felix. They marched 
near a thousand miles to the south of the tropic ; but the 
heat of the climate soon repelled the invaders, and protected 
the unwarlike natives of those sequestered regions. 2 The 

1 Dion Cassias, (1. liv. p. 736,) with the annotations of Reimar, who has col- 
lected all that Roman vanity luis left upon the subject. The marble of Ancyra, 
on which Augustus recorded his own exploits, asserts that he compelled the Par- 
tisans to restore the ensigns of Crassus. 

2 Strabo. <L xvi. p. 780,) Pliny the elder, (Hist. Natur. 1. vi. c. 32, 35, [28, 29,]) 
and Dion Cassius, (1. liii. p. 723, and 1. liv. p. 734.) have left us very curious 
details concerning thesf wars. The Romans made themselves mastersof Mariaba, 
or Merab, a city of Arabia Felix, well known to the Orientals. (See Abulfeda 
and the Nubian geography, p. 52.)* They were arrived within three days' f 
journey of the spice country, the rich object of their invasion. 

* It is this city of Merab that the Arabs say was the residence of Belkis, queen of 
Saba, wiio desired to see Solomon. A dam, by which the waters collected in its 
neighborhood were kept back, having been swept away, the sudden inundation 
destroyed this city, of which, nevertheless, vestiges remain. It bordered on a 
country called Adramout, where a particular aromatic plant grows : it is for this 
reason that we read, in the history of the Roman expedition, that they were ar- 
rived within three days' journey of the spice country. — G. Compare Maltc-Lrun, 
Geogr. Encr. trans, vol. ii. p. 215. The period of this flood has been copiously 
discussed by Reiske (Program. <le vetustd Epoclia Arctium, i^uptnra cataractce 
Merabensis.) Add Johaniisen, Hist. Yemance, p. 282. Bonn, 1828 ; and see Gu- 
bon, note 16 to Chap. L. — M. 

t Two, according to Strabo. The detailed account of Strabo makes the in- 


northern countries of Europe scarcely deserved the expense 
and labor of conquest. The forests and morasses of Ger- 
many were filled with a hardy race of barbarians, who 
despised life when it was separated from freedom ; and 
though, on the first attack, they seemed to yield to the 
weight of the Roman power, they soon, by a signal act 
of despair, regained their independence, and reminded 
Augustus of the vicissitude of fortune. 3 On the death of 
that emperor, his testament was publicly read in the senate. 
He bequeathed, as a valuable legacy to his successors, the 
advice of confining the empire within those limits which 
nature seemed to have placed as its permanent bulwarks and 
boundaries : on the west, the Atlantic Ocean ; the Rhine 
and Danube on the north; the Euphrates on the east; 
and towards the south, the sandy deserts of Arabia and 
Africa. 4 

Happily for the repose of mankind, the moderate system 
recommended by the wisdom of Augustus, was adopted by 
the fears and vices of his immediate "successors. Engaged 
in the pursuit of pleasure, or in the exercise of tyranny, the 
first Caesars seldom showed themselves to the armies, or to 
the provinces ; nor were they disposed to suffer, that those 
triumphs which their indolence neglected, should be usurped 
by the conduct and valor of their lieutenants. The military 
fame of a subject was considered as an insolent invasion of 
the Imperial prerogative ; and it became the duty, as well 
as interest of every Roman general, to guard the frontiers 
intrusted to his care, without aspiring to conquests which 
might have proved no less fatal to himself than to the 
vanquished barbarians. 5 

3 By the slaughter of Varus and his three legions. See the first hook of the 
Annals of Tacitus. Sueton. in August, c. 23, and Velleius Paterculus, 1. ii. c. 
117, &c. Augustus did not receive the melancholy news with all the temper and 
firmness that might have heen expected from his < haracter. 

4 Tacit. Annul. 1. ii. Dion Cassius, 1. lvi. p. K'*3, and the speech of Augustus 
himself, in Julian's Caesars. It receives great light from the learned notes of 
his French translator, M. Spanheim. 

& Germanicus, Suetonius Paulinus, and Agricola were checked and recalled in 
the course of their victories. Corbulo was put to death. Military merit, as it is 
admirably expressed by Tacitus, was, in the strictest sense of the word, hnpera- 
toria vir-tus. 

vaders fail before Marsuabns : this cannot be the same place as Mariaba. Ukert 
observes, that iElius Gallus would not have failed for want of water before 
Mariaba. (See M. Guizot's note ante,) " Either, therefore, they were different 
places, or Strabo is mistaken." (Ukert, Geogtaphie der Griechenund Ji'dmer, vol. 
i. p. l<sl.) Strabo, indeed, mentions Mariaba distinct from Marsuabae. Gibbon 
has followed Pliny in reckoning Mariaba among the conquests of Gallus. There 
can be little doubt that he is wrong, as Gallus did not approach the capital of 
Sabaea. Compare the note of the Oxford editor of Strabo. — M. 


The only accession which the Roman empire received, 
during the first century of the Christian JEra, was the prov- 
ince of Britain. In this single instance, the successors of 
Ccesar and Augustus were persuaded to follow the example 
of the former, rather than the precept of the latter. The 
proximity of its situation to the coast of Gaul seemed to 
invite their arms ; the pleasing though doubtful intelligence 
of a pearl fishery attracted their avarice ; 6 and as Britain 
was viewed in the light of a distinct and insulated world, 
the conquest scarcely formed any exception to the general 
svstem of continental measures. After a Avar of about 
forty years, undertaken by the most stupid, 7 maintained by 
the most dissolute, and terminated by the most timid of all 
the emperors, the far greater part of the island submitted to 
the Roman yoke. 8 The various tribes of Britons possessed 
valor without conduct, and the love of freedom without the 
spirit of union. They took up arms with savage fierceness ; 
they laid them down, or turned them against each other, 
with wild inconstancy ; and while they fought singly, they 
were successively subdued. Neither the fortitude of Ca- 
ractacus, nor the despair of Boadicea, nor the fanaticism 
of the Druids, could avert the slavery of their country, or 
resist the steady progress of the Imperial generals, who main- 
tained the national glory, when the throne was disgraced 
by the weakest, or the most vicious of mankind. At the 
very time when Domitian, confined to his palace, felt the 
terrors which he inspired, his legions, under the command 
of the virtuous Agricola, defeated the collected force of the 
Caledonians, at the foot of the Grampian Hills; and his 
fleets, venturing to explore an unknown and dangerous 
navigation, displayed the Roman arms round every part of 
the island. The conquest of Britain was considered as 
already achieved ; and it was the design of Agricola to com- 
plete and insure his success by the easy reduction of Ireland, 
for which, in his opinion, one legion and a few auxiliaries 

6 Caesar himself conceals that ignoble motive ; but it is mentioned by Sueto- 
nius, c. 47. The British pearls proved, however, of little value, on account of 
their dark and livid color. Tacitus observes, with reason, (in Agricola. c. 12,) 
that it was an inherent defect. " Ego facilius crediderim, naturam margaritis 
deesse quam nobis avaritiam." 

i Claudius, Nero, and Domitian. A hope is expressed by Pomposius Mela, 1. 
iii. c. G, (he wrote under Claudius,) -that, by the success of the Roman arms, the 
island and its savage inhabitants would soon be betlei known. It is amusing 
enough to peruse such passages in the midst of Londoii. 

8 See the admirable abridgment given by Tacitus, in the life of Agricola, and 
copiously, though perhaps not completely/illustrated by our own antiquarians, 
Camden and Horsley. 


were sufficient. 9 The western isle might be improved into 
a valuable possession, and the Britons would wear their 
chains with the less reluctance, if the prospect and example 
of freedom were on every side removed from before their 

But the superior merit of Agricola soon occasioned his 
removal from the government of Britain ; and forever dis- 
appointed this rational, though extensive, scheme of con- 
quest. Before his departure, the prudent general had pro- 
vided for security as well as for dominion. He had observed, 
that the island is almost divided into two unequal parts by 
the opposite gulfs, or, as they are now called, the Friths of 
Scotland. Across the narrow interval of about forty miles, 
he had drawn a line of military stations, wdiich was after- 
wards fortified, in the reign of Antoninus Pins, by a turf 
rampart, erected on foundations of stone. 10 This wall of 
Antoninus, at a small distance beyond the modern cities of 
Edinburgh and Glasgow, was fixed as the limit of the Roman 
province. The native Caledonians preserved, in the north- 
ern extremity of the island, their wild independence, for 
which they were not less indebted to their poverty than to 
their valor. Their incursions were frequently repelled and 
chastised ; but their country was never subdued. 11 The 
masters t>f the fairest and most wealthy climates of the 
globe turned with contempt from gloomy hills, assailed by 
the winter tempest, from lakes concealed in a blue mist, and 
from cold and lonely heaths, over which the deer of the 
forest were chased by a troop of naked barbarians. 12 

Such was the state of the Roman frontiers, and such the 

9 The Irish writers, jealous of their national honor, are extremely provoked on 
this occasion, both with Tacitus and with Agiicola. 

1,1 See Horsley's Britannia Romana, 1. i. c. 10.* 

11 The poet Buchanan celebrates with elegance and spirit (see his Sylvae, v.) 
the unviolat d independence of his native country. But, if the single testimony 
of Richard of Cirencester was sufficient to create a Roman province of Vespasi 
ana lo the north of the wall, that independence would be i educed within very 
narrow limits. 

J 2 See Appian (in Pronem.) and the uniform imagery of Ossian's Poems, which, 
according to every hypothesis, were composed by a native Caledonian. 

* Agricola fortified the line from Dumbarton to Edinburgh, consequently 
within Scotland. The emperor Hadrian, during bis residence m Britain about 
the year 121, caused a rampart of earth to be raised between Newcastle and (jar- 
lisle. Antoninus Pius, having gained new victories over the Caledonians, by the 
abihtv of his general, Lollius Urbicus, caused a new rampart of earth to be con- 
structed between Edinburgh and Dumbarton. Lastly, Septimius Severus caused 
a wall of stone to be biilt parallel lothe ramnart of Hadriin, and on the same 
locality. See John Warburton's Vallum Romanum, or the History and Antiqui- 
ties of' the Roman Wall. London, 1751, 4to — W. See likewise a good note on 
the Roman Wall in Lingard's History of England, vol. i. p. 40, 4to edit.— M. 


maxims of Imperial policy, from the death of Augustus to 
the accession of Trajan. That virtuous and active prince 
had received the education of a soldier and possessed the 
talents of a general. 13 The peaceful system of his predeces- 
sors was interrupted by scenes of Avar and conquest ; and 
the legions, after a long interval, beheld a military emperor 
at their head. The first exploits of Trajan were against the 
Dacians, the most warlike of men, who dwelt beyond the 
Danube, and who, during the reign of Domitian, had insult- 
ed, w r ith impunity, the Majesty of Rome. 14 To the strength 
and fierceness of barbarians they added a contempt for life, 
which was derived from a warm persuasion of the im- 
mortality and transmigration of the soul. 15 Decebalus, the 
Dacian king, approved himself a rival not unworthy of 
Trajan ; nor did he despair of his own and the public for- 
tune, till, by the confession of his enemies, he had exhausted 
every resource both of valor and policy. 16 This memorable 
war, with a very short suspension of hostilities, lasted five 
years ; and as the emperor could exert, without control, the 
whole force of the state, it was terminated by an absolute 
submission of the barbarians. 17 The new province of Dacia, 
which formed a second exception to the precept of Augustus, 
was about thirteen hundred miles in circumference. Its 
natural boundaries were the Niester, the Teyss or Tibiseus, 
the Lower Danube, and the Euxine Sea. The vestiges of 
a military road may still be traced from the banks of the 
Danube to the neighborhood of Bender, a place famous in 
modern history, and the actual frontier of the Turkish and 
Russian empires. 18 

Trajan was ambitious of fame ; and as long as mankind 
shall continue to bestow more liberal applause on their 
destroyers than on their benefactors, the thirst of military 
glory will ever be the vice of the most exalted characters. 
The praises of Alexander, transmitted by a succession of 
poets and historians, had kindled a dangerous emulation in 
the mind of Trajan. Like him, the Roman emperor under- 
took an expedition against the nations of the East ; but he 
lamented with a sigh, that his advanced age scarcely left 

" 13 See Pliny's Panegyric, which seems founded on facts. 

14 Dion Cassias, 1. lxvii. 

is Herodotus, 1. iv. e. 94. Julian in the Caesars, with Spanheira's observations. 

16 Plin. Epist. viii. 9. 

tt Dion Cassius, 1. lxviii. p. 1123, 1131. Julian in Caesaribus. Eutropius, viii. 2, 
6. Auielius Victor in Epitome. 

18 See a Memoir of M. d'Anville, on the Province of Dacia, in the Acad6mie 
des Inscriptions, torn, xxviii. p. 444-468. 


him any hopes of equalling the renown of the son of Philip. 19 
Yet the success of Trajan, however transient, was rapid and 
specious. The degenerate Parthmns, broken by intestine 
discord, fled before his arms. He descended the River 
Tigris in triumph, from the mountains of Armenia to the 
Persian Guli. He enjoyed the honor of being the first, as 
he was the last, of the Roman generals, who ever navigated 
that remote sea. His fleets ravaged the coasts of Arabia ; 
and Trajan vainly flattered himself that he was approaching 
towards the confines of India. 20 Every day the astonished 
senate received the intelligence of new names and new 
nations, that acknowledged his sway. They were informed 
that the kings of Bosphorus, Colchos, Iberia, Albania, 
Osrhoene, and even the Parthian monarch himself, had 
accepted their diadems from the hands of the emperor ; that 
the independent tribes of the Median and Carduchian hills 
had implored his protection ; and that the rich countries of 
Armenia, Mesopotamia, and Assyria, were reduced into the 
state of provinces. 21 But the death of Trajan soon clouded 
the splendid prospect ; and it was justly to be dreaded, that 
so many distant nations would throw off the unaccustomed 
yoke, when they were no longer restrained by the powerful 
hand which had imposed it. 

It was an ancient tradition that, when the Capitol was 
founded by one of the Roman kings, the god Terminus 
(who presided over boundaries, and was represented, accord- 
ing to the fashion of that age, by a large stone) alone, among 
all the inferior deities, refused to yield his place to Jupiter 
himself. A favorable inference was drawn from his obsti- 
nacy, which was interpreted by the augurs as a sure presage 
that the boundaries of the Roman power would never 
recede. 22 During many ages, the prediction, as it is usual, 
contributed to its own accomplishment. But though Ter- 
minus had resisted the Majesty of Jupiter, he submitted to 
the authority of the emperor Hadrian.- 3 The resignation of 

19 Trajan's sentiments are represented in a very" just and lively manner in Die 
Caesars of Julian. 

20 Eutropius and Sextus Rufus have endeavored to perpetuate the illusion. 
See a very sensible dissertation of M. Freret in the Academie dcs Inscriptions, 
torn. xxi. p. 55. 

21 Dion Cassius, 1. lxviii.; and the Abbreviators. 

22 Ovid. Fast. 1. ii. ver. 607. See Livy, and Dionysius of Halicarnassus, under 
the reign of Tarquin. 

23 St. Augustin is highly delighted with the proof of the weakness of Termi- 
nus, and the vanity of the Augurs. See De Civitate Dei, iv. 29.* 

* The turn of Gibbon's sentence is Augustin's : " Plus Hrdrianum regem hom- 
inum, quam regem Deorum timuisse videatur." — M. 




all the eastern conquests of Trajan was the first measure 
of lus reign. He restored to the Parthians the election of 
an independent sovereign; withdrew the Roman garrisons 
from the provinces of Armenia, Mesopotamia, and Assyria ; 
and, in compliance with the precept of Augustus, once more 
established the Euphrates as the frontier of the empire. 
Censure, Avhich arraigns the public actions and the private 
motives of princes, has ascribed to envy, a conduct which 
might be attributed to the prudence and moderation of 
Hadrian. The various character of that emperor, capable, 
by turns, of the meanest and most generous sentiments, may 
afford some color to the suspicion. It was, however, 
scarcely in his power to place the superiority of his prede- 
cessor in a more conspicuous light, than by thus confessing 
himself unequal to the task of defending the conquests of 

The martial and ambitious spirit of Trajan formed a 
very singular contrast Avith the moderation of his successor. 
The restless activity of Hadrian was not less remarkable 
when compared with the gentle repose of Antoninus Pius. 
The life of the former was almost a perpetual journey ; and 
as he possessed the various talents of the soldier, the states- 
man, and the scholar, he gratified his curiosity in the dis- 
charge of his duty. Careless of the difference of seasons and 
of climates, he marched on foot, and bare-headed, over the 
snows of Caledonia, and the sultry plains of the Upper 
Egypt ; nor was there a province of the empire which, in 
the course of his reign, was not honored with the presence 
of the monarch. 25 But the tranquil life of Antoninus Pius 
was spent in the bosom of Italy ; and, during the twenty- 
three years that he directed the "public administration, the 
longest journeys of that amiable prince extended no farther 
than from his palace in Rome to the retirement of his Lanu- 
vian villa." 26 

Notwithstanding this difference in their personal conduct, 
the general system of Augustus was equally adopted and 

24 See the Augustan History, p. 5, Jerome's Chronicle, and all the Epitomizers. 
It is somewhat surprising, that this memorable event should be omitted by Dion, 
or rather by Xiphilin. 

-j Dion. 1. lxix. p. 1158. Hist. August, p. 5, 8. If all our historians were lost, 
medals, inscriptions, and other monuments, would be sufficient to record the 
travels of Hadrian.* 

20 See the Augustan History and the Epitomes. 

* The journeys of Hadrian are traced in a note on Soluet's translation of Hege- 
wisch, Essai sur l'Epoquedel' H istoire Romaine la plus heureuse pour le Genre 
Hunvain. Paris, 1834, p. 123.— M. 


uniformly pursued by Hadrian and by the two Antonincs. 
They persisted in the design of maintaining the dignity of 
the empire, without attempting to enlarge its limits. By 
every honorable expedient they invited the friendship of the 
barbarians; and endeavored to convince mankind that the 
Roman power, raised above the temptation of conquest, was 
actuated only by the love of order and justice. During a 
long period of forty-three years, their virtuous labors were 
crowned with success ; and if we except a few slight hostil- 
ities, that served to exercise the legions of the frontier, the 
reigns ot Hadrian and Antoninus Pius offer the fair pros- 
pect of universal peace. 27 The Roman name was revered 
amenofthe most remote nations of the earth. The fiercest 
barl ai\ans frequently submitted their differences to the ar- 
bitration of the emperor, and we are informed by a contem- 
porary historian that he had seen ambassadors who were 
refused the honor which they came to solicit, of being ad- 
mitted into the rank of subjects. 28 

The terror of the Roman arms added weight and dignity 
to the moderation of the emperors. They preserved peace 
by a constant preparation for war; and while justice regu- 
lated their conduct, they announced to the nations on their 
confines, that they were as little disposed to endure, as to 
offer an injury. The military strength, which it had been 
sufficient for Hadrian and the elder Antoninus to display, 
was exerted against the Parthians and the Germans by the 
emperor Marcus. The hostilities of the barbarians provoked 
the resentment of that philosophic monarch, and, in the 
prosecution of a just defence, Marcus and his generals ob' 
tained many signal victories, both on the Euphrates and on 
the Danube. 29 The military establishment of the Roman 
empire, which thus assured either its tranquillity or success, 
will now become the proper and important object of our 

In the purer ages of the commonwealth the use of arms 
was reserved for those ranks of citizens who had a country 

2 ? We must, however, remember, that in the time of Hadrian, a rebellion of 
the Jews raged with religious fury, though only in a single province. Paus>anias 
(1. viii. e. 4;j) mentions two necessary ami successful wars, conducted by the gen- 
erals of Pius • 1st. Against the wandering Moors who were driven into the soli- 
tudes of Atlas. 2d. Against the Brigantes of Britain, who had invaded the 
Roman province. Both these wars (with several other hostilities) are mentioned 
in the Augustan History, p. 19. 

** Appian of Alexandria, in the preface to his History of the Roman Wars. 

29 Dion, 1. Ixxi. Hist. August, in Marco. The Parthian victories gave birth to 
a crowd of contemptible historians, whose memory has been rescued from oblivion 
and exposed to ridicule, in a very lively piece of criticism of Lucian. 


to love, a property to defend, and some share in enacting 
those laws, which it was their interest as well as duty to 
maintain. But in proportion as the public freedom was lost 
in extent of conquest, war was gradually improved into an 
art, and degraded into a trade. 30 The legions themselves, 
even at the time when they were recruited in the most dis- 
tant provinces, were supposed to consist of Roman citizens. 
That distinction was generally considered, either as a legal 
qualification or as a proper recompense for the soldier ; but a 
more serious regard was paid to the essential merit of age, 
strength, and military stature. 31 In all levies, a just prefer- 
ence was given to the climates of the North over those of 
the South : the race of men born to the exercise of arms 
was sought for in the country rather than in cities ; and 
it was very reasonably presumed, that the hardy occupations 
of smiths, carpenters, and huntsmen, would supply more 
vigor and resolution than the sedentary trades which are 
employed in the service of luxury. 32 After every qualifi- 
cation of property had been laid aside, the armies of the 
Roman emperors Avere still commanded, for the most part, 
bv officers of liberal birth and education : but the common 
soldiers, like the mercenary troops of modern Europe, were 
drawn from the meanest, and very frequently from the most 
profligate of mankind. 

That public virtue, which among the ancients was de- 
nominated patriotism, is derived irom a strong sense of our 
own interest in the preservation and prosperity of the free 
government of which we are members. Such a sentiment, 
which had rendered the legions of the republic almost in- 
vincible, could make but a very feeble impression on the 
mercenary servants of a despotic prince ; and it became 
necessary to supply that defect by other motives, of a dif- 

30 The poorest rank of soldiers possessed above forty pounds sterling (Dionys. 
Halicarn. iv. 17), a very high qualification at a time when money was so scarce, that 
an ounce of silver was equivalent to seventy pounds weight of bra>s.* The popu- 
lace, excluded by the ancient constitution, were indiscriminately admitted by 
Marias. See Sallust. de Bell. Jugurth. c. 91. 

31 Caesar formed his legion Alauda of Gauls and strangers : but it was during 
the license of civil war ; and after the victory, he gave them the freedom of the 
city for their reward. 

32 See Vegetius, de Re Militari, 1. i. c. 2-7. 

* On the uncertainty of all these estimates, and the difficulty of fixing the 
relative value of brass and silver, compare Niebuhr, vol. i. p. 473, &c. Eng. trans. 
p. 452. According to Niebuhr, the relative disproportion in value between the 
two metals arose, in a great degree, from the abundance of brass or copper. — M. 
Compare also Bureau de la Malle Economie Politique des Komains, especially L. 
1. c. ix.— M. 1845. 


ferent, out not less forcible nature — honor and religion. 
The peasant, or mechanic, imbibed the useful prejudice that 
he was advanced to the more dignified profession of arms, 
in which his rank and reputation would depend on his own 
valor ; and that, although the prowess of a private soldier 
must often escape the notice of fame, his own behavior 
might sometimes confer glory or disgrace on the company, 
the legion, or even the army to whose honors lie was asso- 
ciated. On his first entrance into the service, an oath was 
administered to him with every circumstance of solemnity. 
He promised never to desert his standard, to submit his own 
will to the commands of his leaders, and to sacrifice his life 
for the safety of the emperor and the empire. 33 The attach- 
ment of the Roman troops to their standards was inspired 
by the united influence of religion and of honor. The gold- 
en eagle, which glittered in the front of the legion, was the 
object of their fondest devotion ; nor was it esteemed less 
impious than it was ignominious, to abandon that sacred en- 
sign in the hour of danger. 84 These motives, which derived 
their strength from the imagination, were enforced by fears 
and hopes of a more substantial kind. Regular pay, occa- 
sional donatives, and a stated recompense, after the ap- 
pointed time of service, alleviated the hardships of the mil- 
itary life, 35 whilst, on the other hand, it was impossible for 
cowardice or disobedience to escape the severest punish- 
ment. The centurions Avere authorized to chastise with 
blows, the generals had a right to punish with death ; and it 
was an inflexible maxim of Roman discipline, that a good 
soldier should dread his officers far more than the enemy. 
From such laudable arts did the valor of the Imperial troops 
receive a degree of firmness and docility, unattainable by 
the impetuous and irregular passions of barbarians. 

And yet so sensible were the Romans of the imperfec- 

3- » The oath of service and fidelity to the emperor was annually renewed by the 
troops on the first of January. 

** Tacitus calls the Roman eagles, Bellorum Deos. They were placed in a 
chapel in the camp, and with the other deities received the religious worship of 
the troops.* 1 

33 See Gronovius de Pecunia vetere, 1. iii. p. 120, &c. The emperor Domiiian 
raised the annual stipend of the legionaries to twelve pieces of gold, which, in his 
time, was equivalent to about ten of our guineas. This pay. somewhat higher 
than our own, had been, ami was afterwards, gradually increased, according to 
the progress of wealth and military government. After twenty years' service, the 
veteran received three thousand denarii (about one hundred pounds sterling,) or 
a proportionable allowance of land. The pay and advantages of the guards were, 
in general, about double those of the legions. 

* See also Dio. Cass. xl. c. 18.— M. 


tion of valor without skill and practice, that, in their lan- 
guage, the name of an army was borrowed from the word 
which signified exercise. 36 Military exercises were the im- 
portant and unremitted object of their disci] line. The re- 
cruits and young soldiers were constantly trained, both in 
the morning and in the evening, nor was a<*e or knowledge 
allowed to excuse the veterans from the daily repetition of 
what they had completely learnt. Large sheds were erected 
in the winter-quarters of the troops, that their useful labors 
might not receive any interruption from the most tempest- 
uous weather ; and it was carefully observed, that the arms 
destined to this imitation of war should be of double the 
weight which was required in real action. 87 It is not the 
purpose of this work to enter into any minute description 
of the Roman exercises. We shall only remark, that they 
comprehended whatever could add strength to the body, ac- 
tivity to the limbs, or grace to the motions. The soiuiers 
were diligently instructed to march, to run, to leap, to 
swim, to carry heavy burdens, to handle every species of 
arms that was used either for offence or for defence, either 
in distant engagement or in a closer onset ; to form a va- 
riety of evolutions ; and to move to the sound of flutes in 
the Pyrrhic or martial dance. 38 In the midst of peace, the 
Roman troops familiarized themselves with the practice of 
war ; and it is prettily remarked by an ancient historian 
who had fought against them, that the effusion of blood 
was the only circumstance which distinguished a field of 
battle from a field of exercise. 39 It was the policy of the 
ablest generals, and even of the emperors themselves, to 
e i courage these military studies by their presence and ex- 
ample ; and we are informed that Hadrian, as well as Tra- 
jan, frequently condescended to instruct the unexperienced 
soldiers, to reward the diligent, and sometimes to dispute 

33 Exercitus ab exercitando, Varro de Lingua Latina. 1. iv. Cicero in Trscul- 
an. 1. ii. 37, [15.] There is room for a very interesting work, which should lay 
open the connection between the languages and manners of nations.* 

3| Vegetius, 1. ii. and the rest of his first book. 

38 The Pyrrhic, dance is extremely well illustrated by M. le Beau, in the 
Academie des Inscriptions, torn. xxxv. p. 262, &e. That learned academician, in 
a series of memoirs, "has collected all the passages of the ancients that relate to 
the Roman legion. 

: » Joseph, de Bell. Judaico, 1. iii. c 5. We are indebted to this Jew for some 
very curious details of Roman discipline. 

* I am not aware of the existence, at present, of such a work ; but the pro- 
found observation; of the late William von Humboldt, in the introduction to his 
posthumously published Essay en the Language of the Island of Java (iiber die 
Kawi-sprache, Berlin, 1F36), may cause regret't hat this task was not completed 
by that accomplished and universal scholar. — M. 


with them the prize of superior strength or dexterity. 40 
Under the reigns of those princes, the science of tactics 
was cultivated with success ; and as long as the empire re- 
tained any vigor, their military instructions were respected 
as the most perfect model of Roman discipline. 

Nine centuries of Avar had gradually introduced into the 
service many alterations and improvements. The legions, 
as they are described by Polybius, 41 in the time of the 
Punic wars, differed very materially from those which 
achieved the victories of Cajsar, or defended the monarchy 
of Hadrian and the Antonines. The constitution of the 
imperial legion may be described in a few words. 42 The 
heavy-armed infantry, which composed its principal 
strength, 43 was divided into ten cohorts, and fifty-five com- 
panies, under the orders of a correspondent number of 
tribunes and centurions. The first cohort, which always 
claimed the post of honor and the custody of the eagle, was 
formed of eleven hundred and five soldiers, the most ap- 
proved for valor and fidelity. The remaining nine cohorts 
consisted each of five hundred and fifty-five; and the whole 
body of legionary infantry amounted to six thousand one 
hundred men. Their arms were uniform, and admirably 
adapted to the nature of their service : an open helmet, 
with a lofty crest ; a breast-plate or coat of mail; greaves 
on their legs, and an ample buckler on their left arm. The 
buckler was of an oblong and concave figure, four feet in 
length, and two and a half in breadth, framed of a light 
wood, covered with a bull's hide, and strongly guarded 
with plates of brass. Besides a lighter spear, the legionary 
soldier grasped in his right hand the formidable pilum, a 
ponderous javelin, whose utmost length was about six feet, 
and which was terminated by a massy triangular point of 
steel of eighteen inches. 44 This instrument was indeed much 
inferior to our modern fire-arms ; since *it was exhausted by 
a single discharge, at the distance of only ten or twelve 

*° Plin. Panegvr. c. 13. Life of Hadrian, in the Augustan History. 

41 See an admirable digression on the Roman discipline, in the sixth book of 
his History. 

■i-2 Vege Jus de Re Militari, 1. ii. c. 4, &c. Considerable part of his very per- 
plexed abridgment was taken from the regulations of Trajan ai d Hadrian ; and 
the legion, as he describes it, cannot s.:it any other age of the Roman Empire. 

*'■ Vegetius de Re Militari, 1. ii. c. 1. In the purer age of Caesar and Cicero, the 
word mi 'es was almost confined to the infantry. Under the lower empire, and in 
the times of chivalry, it was appropriated almost as exclusively to the men at 
arms, who fought on horseback. 

4 > In tbe time of Polybius and Dionysins of Halicarnassus (1. v. c. 45), the steel 
point of the pit um seems to have been much longer. In the timeof Vegetius, it was 
reduced to a foot, or even nine inches. 1 have chosen a medium. 


paces. Yet when it was launched by a firm and skilful 
hand, there was not any cavalry that durst venture within 
its reach, nor any shield or corselet that could sustain the 
impetuosity of its weight. As soon as the Roman had 
darted his pilum, he drew his sword, and rushed forwards 
to close with the enemy. His sword was a short well- 
tempered Spanish blade, that carried a double edge, and 
was alike suited to the purpose of striking or of pushing ; 
but the soldier was always instructed to prefer the latter 
use of his weapon, as his own body remained less exposed, 
whilst he inflicted a more dangerous wound on his adver- 
sary. 45 The legion was usually drawn up eight deep ; and 
the regular distance of three feet was left between the files 
as well as ranks. 46 A body of troops, habituated to preserve 
this open order, in a long front and a rapid charge, found 
themselves prepared to execute every disposition which the 
circumstances of war, or the skill of their leader, might 
suggest. The soldier possessed a free space for his arms 
and motions, and sufficient intervals were allowed, through 
which seasonable reinforcements might be introduced to 


the relief of the exhausted combatants. 47 The tactics of 
the Greeks and Macedonians were formed on very different 
principles. The strength of the phalanx depended on six- 
teen ranks of long pikes, wedged together in the closest 
array. 48 But it was soon discovered by reflection, as well 
as by the event, that the strength of the phalanx was unable 
to contend with the activity of the legion. 49 

The cavalry, without which the force of the legion would 
have remained imperfect, was divided into ten troops or 
squadrons ; the first, as the companion of the first cohort, 
consisted of a hundred and thirty-two men ; whilst each of 
the other nine amounted only to sixty-six. The entire 
establishment formed a regiment, if we may use the modern 
expression, of seven hundred and twenty-six horse, naturally 
connected with its respective legion, but occasionally sep- 
arated to act in the line, and to compose a part of the wings 
of the army. 50 The cavalry of the emperors was no longer 

45 For the legionary arms, see Lipsius de Militia Romana, I. iii. c. 2-7. 

46 See the beautiful comparison of Virgil, Georgie ii. v. 2i"9. 

47 M. Guichard, Memoires Militaires, torn. i. c. 4, and Nouveaux Memoires, torn. 
i. p. 293-311, has treated the subject like a scholar and an officer. 

43 See Arrian's Tactics. With the true partiality of a Greek, Arrian rather 
chose to describe the phalanx, of which he had read, than the legions which 
he had commanded. 

« Polyb. 1. lxvii. 1. xviii. 0. 

50 Veget. de Re Militari, 1. ii. c. 6. His positive testimony, which might be 


composed, like that of the ancient republic, of the noblest 
youths of Rome and Italy, who, by performing their military 
service on horseback, prepared themselves for the offices of 
senator and consul ; and solicited, by deeds of valor, the 
future suffrages of their countrymen. 51 Since the alteration 
of manners and government, the most wealthy of the eques- 
trian order were engaged in the administration of justice, 
and of the revenue ; 5i and whenever they embraced the pro- 
fession of arms, they were immediately intrusted with a 
troop of horse, or a cohort of foot. 53 Trajan and Hadrian 
formed their cavalry from the same provinces, and the same 
class of their subjects, which recruited the ranks of the 
legion. The horses were bred, for the most part, in Spain 
or Cappadocia. The Roman troopers despised the complete 
armor with which the cavalry of the East was encumbered. 
Their more useful arms consisted in a helmet, an oblong 
shield, light boots, and a coat of mail. A javelin, and a 

supported by circumstantial evidence, ought surely to silence those critics who 
refuse the Imperial legion its proper body of cavalry.* 

»' See Livy almost throughout, particularly xlii. 61. 

52 Plin. Hist. Natur. xxxiii. 2. The true sense of that very curious passage 
was first discovered and illustrated by M. de Beaufort, Republique Romaine, 1. li. 
c. 2. 

& 3 As in the instance of Horace and Agricola. This appears to have been a 
defect in the Roman discipline, which Hadrian endeavored to remedy by ascer- 
taining the legal age of a tribune. t 

* See also Joseph. B. J. iii. vi. 2 — M. 

t These details are not altogether accurate. Although, in the latter days of 
the republic, and under the lirst emperors, the young Roman nobles obtained the 
command of a squadron or a cohort with greater facility than in the former times, 
thjy never obtained it without passing through a tolerably long military service. 
Usually they served first in the praetorian cohort, which was intrusted with the 
guard of the general : they were received into the companionship (contubernium) 
of some superior officer, and were there formed for duty. Thus Julius Caesar, 
though sprung from a great family, served lirst as contubernalis under the 
pro; tor, M. Thermus, and later under Servilius the Isaurian. (Suet. Jul. 2, 5. 
Plut. in Par. p. 516. Ed. Froben.) The example of Horace, which Gibbon ad- 
duces to prove that young knights were made tribunes immediately on entering 
the service, proves nothing. In the first place, Horace was not a knight ; he was 
the son of a freedman of Venusia, in Apulia, who exercised the humble office of 
coactor exauctionum (collector of payments at auctions). (Sat. i. vi. 45, or 86.) 
Moreover, when the poet was made tribune, Brutus, whose army was nearly en- 
tirely composed of Orientals, gave this title to all the Romans of consideration 
who joined him. The emperors were still less difficult in their choice ; the num- 
ber of tribunes was augmented ; the ti.le and honors were conferred on persons 
whom they wished to attach to the court. Augustus conferred on the sons of 
senators, sometimes the tribunate, sometimes the command of a squadron. 
Claudius gave to the knights who entered into the service, first the command of 
a cohort of auxiliaries, later that of a squadron, and at length, for the first time, 
the t. ibanate. (Suet, in Claud, with the notes of Ernesti.) The abuses that arose 
caused the edict of Hadrian, which fix< d the age at which that honor could be at- 
tained. (Spart. in Had. &c.) This edict was subsequently obeyed ; for the em- 
peror Valerian, in a letter addressed to Mulvius Gallicanus, praetorian praefect, 
excuses himself for having violated it in favor of the young Probus, afterwards, 
emperor, on whom he had conferred the tribunate at an earlier age on account 
of his rare talents. (Vopisc. in Prob. iv.) — W. and G. Agricola, though already 
invested with the title of tribune, was contubernalis in Britain with Suetonius 
Paulinus. Tac. Agr. v.— M. 


long broad sword, were their principal weapons of offence. 
The use of lances and of iron maces they seem to have 
borrowed from the barbarians. 54 

The safety and honor of the empire was principally in- 
trusted to the legions, but the policy of Rome condescended 
to adopt every useful instrument of war. Considerable 
levies were regularly made among the provincials, who had 
not yet deserved the honorable distinction of Romans. 
Many dependent princes and communities, dispersed round 
the frontiers, were permitted, for a while, to hold their 
freedom and security by the tenure of military service. 55 
Even select troops of hostile barbarians were frequently 
compelled or persuaded to consume their dangerous valor 
in remote climates, and for the benefit of the state. 56 All 
these were included under the general name of auxiliaries ; 
and howsoever they might vary according to the difference 
of times and circumstances, their numbers were seldom 
much inferior to those of the legions themselves. 57 Among 
the auxiliaries, the bravest and most faithful bands were 
placed under the command of praefects and centurions, and 
severely trained in the arts of Roman discipline ; but the 
far greater part retained those arms, to which the nature of 
their country, or their early habits of life, more peculiarly 
adapted them. By this institution, each legion to whom a 
certain proportion of auxiliaries was allotted, contained 
within itself every species of lighter troops, and of missile 
weapons ; and was capable of encountering every nation, 
with the advantages of its respective arms and discipline. 58 
Nor was the legion destitute of what, in modern language, 
would be styled a train of artillery. It consisted in ten 
military engines of the largest, and fifty-five of a smaller 
size ; but all of which, either in an oblique or horizontal 
manner, discharged stones and darts with irresistible vio- 
lence. 59 

54 See Arrian's Tactics. 

65 Such, in particular, was the state of the Batavians. Tacit. Germania, c. 29. 

66 Marcus Antoninus obliged the vanquished Quadi and Marcomanni to supply 
him with a large body of troops, which he immediately sent into Britain. Dion 
Cassius, 1. lxxi. [c. 16.] 

67 Tacit. Anna], iv. 5. Those who fix a regular proportion of as many foot, and 
twice as many horse, confound the auxiliaries of the emperors with the Italian 
allies of the republic. 

58 Vegetius, ii. 2. Arrian, in his order of march and battle against the Alain. 

&9 The subject of the ancient machines is treated with great knowledge and in- 
genuity by the Chevalier Folard (Polybe, torn. ii. p. 23:3-290). He prefers them 
in many respects to our modern cannon ami mortars. We may observe, that the 
use of them In the field gradually became more prevalent, in proportion as per- 
sonal valor and military skill declined with the Roman empire. When men were 
no longer found, their place was supplied by machines. See Vegetius, ii. 25. Ar- 


The camp of a Roman legion presented the appearance 
of a fortified city. 00 As soon as the space was marked out, 
the pioneers carefully levelled the ground, and removed 
every impediment that might interrupt its perfect reg- 
ularity. Its form was an exact quadrangle ; and we may 
calculate that a square of about seven hundred yards was 
sufficient for the encampment of twenty thousand Romans ; 
though a similar number of our own troops would expose to 
the enemy a front of more than treble that extent. In the 
midst of the camp, the prrctorium, or general's quarters, 
rose above the others; the cavalry, the infantry, and the 
auxiliaries occupied their respective stations ; the streets 
were broad, and perfectly straight, and a vacant space of 
two hundred feet was left on all sides, between the tents 
and the rampart. The rampart itself was usually twelve 
feet high, armed with a line of strong and intricate pali- 
sades, and defended by a ditch of twelve feet in depth as 
well as in breadth. This important labor was performed 
by the hands of the legionaries themselves ; to whom the 
use of the spade and the pickaxe was no less familiar than 
that of the sword or pilwti. Active valor may often be the 
present of nature; but such patient diligence can be the 
fruit only of habit and discipline. 61 

Whenever the trumpet gave the signal of departure, the 
camp was almost instantly broken up, and the troops fell into 
their ranks without delay or confusion. Besides their arms, 
which the legionaries scarcely considered as an encumbrance, 
they were laden with their kitchen furniture, the instruments 
of fortification, and the provision of many days. 02 Under this 
weight, which would oppress the delicacy of a modern sol- 
dier, they were trained by a regular step to advance, in about 
six hours, near twenty miles. 03 On the appearance of an en- 
emy, they threw aside their baggage, and by easy and rapid 
evolutions converted the column of march into an order of 
battle. 04 The slingers and archers skirmished in the front ; 

eo Vegetius finishes his second book, and the description of the legion, with 
the following emphatic words : — " quae in quoquc belli genere necessaria 
esse creduntur, secum legio debet ubique portare, ut in quovis loco fixerit castra, 
armatam faciat nvitatem." 

01 For the Roman Castrametation, see Polybius, 1. vi. with Lipsiusde Militia 
Romana, Joseph, de Bell. Jud. 1. iii. c. 5. Vegetius, i. 21-25, iii. 9, and Memoires 
de Guichard, torn. i. c. 1. 

°- Cicero in Tusculan. ii. 37, [15.] — Joseph, de Bell. Jud. 1. iii. 5. Frontinus, 
iv. 1. 

63 Vegetius, i. 9. See Memoires de l'Academie des Inscriptions, torn. xxv. p. 

04 See those evolutions admirably well explained by M. Guichard. Nouveaux 
Memoires, torn. i. p. 141-234. 


the auxiliaries formed the first line, and were seconded or 
sustained by the strength of the legions; the cavalry covered 
the flanks, and the military engines were placed in the rear. 
Such were the arts of war, by which the Roman emperors 
defended their extensive conquests and preserved a military 
spirit, at a time when every other virtue was oppressed by 
luxury and despotism. If, in the consideration of their 
armies, we pass from their discipline to their numbers, Ave 
shall not find it easy to define them with any tolerable 
accuracy. We may compute, however, that the legion, 
which was itself a body of six thousand eight hundred and 
thirty-one Romans, might, with its attendant auxiliaries, 
amount to about twelve thousand five hundred men. The 
peace establishment of Hadrian and his successors was com- 
posed of no less than thirty of these formidable brigades ; 
and most probably formed a standing force of three hundred 
and seventy-live thousand men. Instead of being confined 
within the walls of fortified cities, which the Romans con- 
sidered-as the refuge of weakness or pusillanimity, the legions 
were encamped on the banks of the great rivers, and along 
the frontiers of the barbarians. As their stations, for the 
most part, remained fixed and permanent, we may venture 
to describe the distribution of the troops. Three legions 
were sufficient for Britain. The principal strength lay upon 
the Rhine and Danube, and consisted of sixteen legions, in 
the following proportions : two in the Lower and three in 
the Upper Germany ; one in Rhsetia, one in Noricum, four 
in Pannonia, three in Maesia, and two in Dacia. The de- 
fence of the Euphrates was intrusted to eight legions, six of 
whom were planted in Syria, and the other two in Cappa- 
docia. With regard to Egypt, Africa, and Spain, as they 
were far removed from any important scene of war, a single 
legion maintained the domestic tranquillity of each of those 
great provinces. Even Italy was not left destitute of a 
military force. Above twenty thousand chosen soldiers, 
distinguished by the titles of City Cohorts and Praetorian 
Guards, watched over the safety of the monarch and the 
capital. As the authors of almost every revolution that dis- 
tracted the empire, the Praetorians will, very soon, and very 
loudly, demand our attention ; but in their arms and insti- 
tutions, we cannot find any circumstance which discrim- 
inated them from the legions, unless it were a more splendid 
appearance, and a less rigid discipline. 65 

w Tacitus (Annal. iv. 5) has given us a state of the legions under Tiberius ; and 


The navy maintained by the emperors might seem inade- 
quate to their greatness ; but it was fully sufficient for every 
useful purpose of government. The ambition of the Romans 
was confined to the land ; nor was that warlike people ever 
actuated by the enterprising spirit which had prompted the 
navigators of Tyre, of Carthage, and even of Marseilles, to 
enlarge the bounds of the world, and to explore the most 
remote coasts of the ocean. To the Romans the ocean 
remained an object of terror rather than of curiosity; 06 the 
whole extent of the Mediterranean, after the destruction of 
Carthage, and the extirpation of the pirates, was included 
within their provinces. The policy of the emperors was 
directed only to preserve the peaceful dominion of that sea, 
and to protect the commerce of their subjects. With these 
moderate views, Augustus stationed two permanent fleets in 
the most convenient ports of Italy, the one at Ravenna, on 
the Adriatic, the other at Misenum, in the Bay of Naples. 
Experience seems at length to have convinced the ancients, 
that as soon as their galleys exceeded two, or at the most 
three ranks of oars, they were suited rather for vain pomp 
than for real service. Augustus himself, in the victory of 
Actium, had seen the superiority of his own light frigates 
(they were called Liburnians) over the lofty but unwieldy 
castles of his rival. 07 Of these Liburnians he composed the 
two fleets of Ravenna and Misenum, destined to command, 
the one the eastern, the other the western division of the 
Mediterranean ; and to each of the squadrons he attached a 
body of several thousand marines. Besides these two ports, 
which may be considered as the principal seats of the Roman 
navy, a very considerable force was stationed at Frejus, on 
the coast of Provence, and the Euxine was guarded by forty 
ships, and three thousand soldiers. To all these we add the 
fleet which preserved the communication between Gaul and 
Britain, and a great number of vessels constantly maintained 
on the Rhine and Danube, to harass the country, or to in- 
tercept the passage of the barbarians. 68 If we review this 
general state of the Imperial forces ; of the cavalry as well 

Dion Cassius (1- lv. P- 794) under Alexander Severus. I have endeavored to fix 
on the proper medium between these two periods. See likewise Lipsius de Mag- 
uitudine liomana., 1. i. c. 4, 5. 

M The Romans t:ied to disguise, by the pretence of religious awe, their igno- 
rance and terror. See Tacit. Germania. c. 34. 

W Plutarch, in Marc. Anton, fc. 07.] And yet, if we may credit Orosius, these 
monstrous castles were no more than ten feet above the water, vi. 19. 

(8 See Lipsius, de Magnitud. Horn. 1. i. c. 5. The sixteen last chapters of Vege- 
tius relate to naval all'airs. 


as infantry; of the legions, the auxiliaries, the guards, and 
the navy; the most liberal computation will not allow us to 
fix the entire establishment by sea and by land at more 
than four hundred and fifty thousand men : a military 
power, which, however formidable it may seem, was equalled 
by a monarch of the last century, whose kingdom was con- 
fined within a single province of the Roman empire. 69 

We have attempted to explain the spirit which mod- 
erated, and the strength which supported, the power of 
Hadrian and the Antonines. We shall now endeavor, with 
clearness and precision, to describe the provinces onee 
united under their sway, but, at present, divided into so 
many independent and hostile states. 

Spain, the western extremity of the empire, of Europe, 
and of the ancient world, has, in every age, invariably pre- 
served the same natural limits ; the Pyrenaean Mountains, 
the Mediterranean, and the Atlantic Ocean. That great 
peninsula, at present so unequally divided between two 
sovereigns, was distributed by Augustus into three prov- 
inces — Lusitania, Boetiea, and Tarraconensis. The kingdom 
of Portugal now fills the place of the warlike country of the 
Lusitanians; and the loss sustained by the former, on the 
side of the East, is compensated by an accession of territory 
towards the North. The confines of Grenada and Andalusia 
correspond with those of ancient Btetica. The remainder 
of Spain, Gallicia, and the Asturias, Biscay, and Navarre, 
Leon, and the two Castiles, Murcia, Valencia, Catalonia, 
and Arragon, all contributed to form the third and most 
considerable of the Roman governments, which, from the 
name of its capital, was styled the province of Tarragona. 70 
Of the native barbarians, the Celtiberians were the most 
powerful, as the Cantabrians and Asturians proved the 
most obstinate. Confident in the strength of their moun- 
tains, they were the last who submitted to the arms of 
Rome, and the first who threw off the yoke of the Arabs. 

Ancient Gaul, as it contained the whole country between 
the Pyrenees, the Alps, the Rhine, and the Ocean, was of 
greater extent than modern France. To the dominions of 
that powerful monarchy, with its recent acquisitions of 

09 Voltaire, Sieele de Louis XIV. c. 29. It must, however, be remembered, that 
France still feels that extraordinary effort. 

"' bee Strabo, 1. ii. It is natural enough to suppose, that Arragon is derived 
from Tarra. onensis, and several moderns who have written in Latin use those 
words as synonymous. It i>, however, certain, that the Arragon, a little stream 
which falls from the Pyrenees into the Kbro, first gave its name to a country, 
and gradually to a kingdom. See d'Anville, Geographie du Moyen Age, p. 181. 


Alsace and Lorraine, we must add the duchy of Savoy, the 
cantons of Switzerland, the four electorates of the Rhine, 
and the territories of Liege, Luxemburgh, Hainault, Flan- 
ders, and Brabant. When Augustus gave laws to the con- 
quests of his father, he introduced a division of Gaul, equally 
adapted to the progress of the legions, to the course of the 
rivers, and to the principal national distinctions, which had 
comprehended above a hundred independent states. 71 The 
sea-coast of the Mediterranean, Languedoc, Provence, and 
Dauphine, received their provincial appellation from the 
colony of Narbonne. The government of Aquitaine was 
extended from the Pyrenees to the Loire. The country be- 
tween the Loire and the Seine was styled the Celtic Gaul, 
and soon borrowed a new denomination from the celebrated 
colony of Lugdunum, or Lyons. The Belgic lay beyond the 
Seine, and in more ancient times had been bounded only by 
the Rhine ; but a little before the age of Caesar, the Ger- 
mans, abusing their superiority of valor, had occupied a 
considerable portion of the Belgic territory. The Roman 
conquerors very eagerly embraced so nattering a circum- 
stance, and the Gallic frontier of the Rhine, from Basil to 
Leyden, received the pompous names of the Upper and the 
Lower Germany. 72 Such, under the reign of the Antonines, 
were the six provinces of Gaul ; the Narbonnese, Aquitaine, 
the Celtic, or Lyonnese, the Belgic, and the two Germanics. 
We have already had occasion to mention the conquest 
of Britain, and to fix the boundary of the Roman Province 
in this island. It comprehended all England, Wales, and 
the Lowlands of Scotland, as far as the Friths of Dumbarton 
and Edinburgh. Before Britain lost her freedom, the coun- 
try was irregularly divided between thirty tribes of barbari- 
ans, of whom the most considerable were the Belgfee in the 
West, the Brigantes in the North, the Silures in South 
Wales, and the Iceni in Norfolk and Suffolk. 73 As far as 
we can either trace or credit the resemblance of manners 
and language, Spain, Gaul, and Britain Avere peopled by the 
same hardy race of savages. Before they yielded to the 
Roman arms, they often disputed the field, and often renewed 
the contest. After their submission, they constituted the 

n One hundred and fifteen cities appear in the Notitia of Gaul ; and it is well 
known that this appellation was applied not only to the capital town, but to the 
whole territory of each state. But Plutarch and Appian increase the number of 
tribes to three or four hundred. 

-■- D'Anville. Notice de l'Ancienne Gaule. 

• 3 Whittaker's History of Manchester, vol. i. e, 3. 


western division of the European provinces, which extended 
from the columns of Hercules to the wall of Antoninus, 
and from the mouth of the Tagus to the sources of the Rhine 
and Danube. 

Before the Roman conquest, the country which is now 
called Lombardy was not considered as a part of Italy. It 
had been occupied by a powerful colony of Gauls, who, set- 
tling themselves along the banks of the Po, from Piedmont 
to Romagna, carried their arms and diffused their name 
from the Alps to the Apennine. The Ligurians dwelt on 
the rocky coast which now forms the republic of Genoa. 
Venice was yet unborn ; but the territories of that state, 
which lie to the east of the Adige, were inhabited by the 
Venetians. 74 The middle part of the peninsula, that now 
composes the duchy of Tuscany and the ecclesiastical state, 
was the ancient seat of the Etruscans and Umbrians; to the 
former of whom Italy was indebted for the first rudiments 
of civilized life. 75 The Tiber rolled at the foot of the seven 
hills of Rome, and the country of the Sabines, the Latins, 
and the Volsci, from that river to the frontiers of Naples, 
was the theatre of her infant victories. On that celebrated 
ground the first consuls deserved triumphs, their successors 
adorned villas, and their posterity have erected convents. 76 
Capua and Campania possessed the immediate territory of 
Naples ; the rest of the kingdom was inhabited by many 
warlike nations, the Marsi, the Samnites, the Apulians, and 
the Lucanians ; and the sea-coasts had been covered by the 
flourishing colonies of the Greeks. We may remark, that 
when Augustus divided Italy into eleven regions, the little 
province of Istria was annexed to that seat of Roman sov- 
ereignty. 77 

The European provinces of Rome were protected by the" 
course of the Rhine and the Danube. The latter of those 
mighty streams, which rises at the distance of only thirty 
miles from the former, flows above thirteen hundred miles, 

74 The Italian Veneti, though often confounded with the Gauls, were moe 
probably of J llyrian origin.* See M. Ereret, Meinoires de l'Acadeinie des Inscrip- 
tions, torn, xviii. 

7;i See Maffei Verona illustrata, 1. i.f 

76 The first contrast was observed by the ancients. See Florus, i. 11. The sec- 
ond must strike every modern traveller. 

77 Pliny (Hist. Natur. 1. iii.) follows the division of Italy by Augustus. 

* Or Liburnian, according to Niebuhr. Vol. i. p. 172. — M. 

t Add Niebuhr, vol. i., and Otfried Miiller, (fie Etrusker, which contains all 
that is known, and much that is conjectured, about this remarkable people. Also 
Micali, Storia degli antichi popoli Italiani. Florence, 1832. — M. 


for the most part to the south-east, collects the tribute of 
sixty navigable rivers, and is, at length, through six mouths, 
received into the Euxine, which appears scarcely equal to 
such an accession of waters. 78 The provinces of the Danube 
soon acquired the general appellation of Illyricum, or the 
Illyrian frontier, 79 and were esteemed the most warlike of 
the empire; but they deserve to be more particularly con- 
sidered under the names of Rhaetia, Noricum, Pannonia, 
Dalmatia, Dacia, Maesia, Thrace, Macedonia, and Greece. # 

The province of Rhastia, which soon extinguished the 
name of the Vindelicians, extended from the summit of the 
Alps to the banks of the Danube ; from its source, as far as 
its conflux with the Inn. The greatest part of the flat coun- 
try is subject to the elector of Bavaria ; the city of Augs- 
burg is protected by the constitution of the German empire ; 
the Grisons are safe in their mountains, and the country of 
Tyrol is ranked among the numerous provinces of the house 
of Austria. 

The wide extent of territory which is included between 
the Inn, the Danube, and the Save, — Austria, Styria, Carin- 
thia, Carniola, the Lower Hungary, and Sclavonia, — was 
known to the ancients under the names of Noricum and 
Pannonia. In their original state of independence, their 
fierce inhabitants were intimately connected. Under the 
Roman government they were frequently united, and they 
still remain the patrimony of a single family. They now 
contain the residence of a German prince, who styles him- 
self Emperor of the Romans, and form the centre, as well 
as strength, of the Austrian power. It may not be improper 
to observe, that if we except Bohemia, Moravia, the north- 
ern skirts of Austria, and a part of Hungary between the 
Teyss and the Danube, all the other dominions of the Plouse 
of Austria were comprised within the limits of the Roman 

Dalmatia, to which the name of Illyricum more properly 
belonged, was a long, but narrow tract, between the Save 
and the Adriatic. The best part of the sea-coast, which 
still retains its ancient appellation, is a province of the 
Venetian state, and the seat of the little republic of 
Ragusa. The Inland parts have assumed the Sclavonian 
names of Croatia and Bosnia ; the former obeys an Austrian 

78 Tournefort, Voyages en Grece et Asie Mineure, lettre xviii. 

" 9 The name of Illyricum originally belonged to the sea-coast of the Adriatic, 
and was gradually extended by the Romans from the Alps to the Euxine Sea. 
See Severini Pannonia, 1. i. c. 8. 


governor, the latter a Turkish pacha; but the whole coun- 
try is still infested by tribes of barbarians, whose savage 
independence irregularly marks the doubtful limit of the 
Christian and Mahometan power. 80 

After the Danube had received the waters of the Teyss 
and the Save, it acquired, at least among the Greeks, the 
name of Ister. 81 It formerly divided Ma?sia and Dacia, the 
latter of which, as we have already seen, was a conquest of 
Trajan, and the only province beyond the river. If Ave inquire 
into the present state of those countries, we shall find that, 
on the left hand of the Danube, Temeswar and Transylva- 
nia have been annexed, after many revolutions, to the crown 
of Hungary; whilst the principalities of Moldavia and Wal- 
laehia acknowledge the supremacy of the Ottoman Porte. 
On the right hand of the Danube, Maesia, which, during the 
middle asres, was broken into the barbarian kingdoms of 
Servia and Bulgaria, is again united in Turkish slavery. 

The appellation of Roumelia, which is still bestowed by 
the Turks on the extensive countries of Thrace, Macedonia, 
and Greece, preserves the memory of their ancient state 
under the Roman empire. In the time of the Antonines, 
the martial regions of Thrace, from the mountains of IIa?mus 
and Rhodope, to the Bosphorus and the Hellespont, had as- 
sumed the form of a province. Notwithstanding the change 
of masters and of religion, the new city of Rome, founded 
by Constantine on the banks of the Bosphorus, has ever 
since remained the capital of a great monarchy. The king- 
dom, of Macedonia, which, under the reign of Alexander, 
gave laws to Asia, derived more solid advantages from the 
policy of the two Philips ; and with its dependencies of 
Epirus and Thessaly, extended from the iEgean to the Ioni- 
an Sea. When Ave reflect on the fame of Thebes and Argos, 
of Sparta and Athens, Ave can scarcely persuade ourselves, 
that so many immortal republics of ancient Greece were lost 
in a single province of the Roman empire, Avhich, from the 
superior influence of the Achaean league, was usually denom- 
inated the province of Achaia. 

Such Avas the state of Europe under the Roman emper- 
ors. The provinces of Asia, without excepting the transient 
conquests of Trajan, are all comprehended within the limits 

£° A Venetian traveller, the Abbate Fortis. has lately given us some account 
of those very obscure countries. But the geography and antiquities of the west- 
ern lllyricum can be expected only from the munificence of the emperor, its 

81 The Save rises near the confines of Ist)-ia, and was considered by the more 
early Greeks as the principal stream of the Danube. 


of the Turkish power. But, instead of following the arbi- 
trary divisions of despotism and ignorance, it will be safer 
for us, as well as more agreeable, to observe the indelible 
characters of nature. The name of Asia Minor is attributed 
with some propriety to the peninsula, which, confined betwixt 
the Euxine and the Mediterranean, advances from the Eu- 
phrates towards Europe. The most extensive and flourish- 
ing district, westward of Mount Taurus and the River Ilalys, 
was dignified by the Romans with the exclusive title of Asia. 
The jurisdiction of that province extended over the ancient 
monarchies of Troy, Lydia, and Phrygia, the maritime 
countries of the Pamphylians, Lycians, and Carians, and the 
Grecian colonies of Ionia, winch equalled in arts, though not 
in arms, the glory of their parent. The kingdoms of Bithy- 
nia and Pontus possessed the northern side of the peninsula 
from Constantinople to Trebizond. On the opposite side, 
the province of Cilicia was terminated by the mountains of 
Syria : the inland country, separated from the Roman Asia 
by the River Ilalys, and from Armenia by the Euphrates, 
had once formed the independent kingdom of Cappadocia. 
In this place we may observe, that the northern shores of 
the Euxine, beyond Trebizond in Asia, and beyond the Dan- 
ube in Europe, acknowledged the sovereignty of the emper- 
ors, and received at their hands either tributary princes or 
Roman garrisons. Budzak, Crim Tartary, Circassia, and 
Mingrelia, are the modern appellations of those savage 
countries. 82 

Under the successors of Alexander, Syria was the seat 
of the Seleucidse, who reigned over Upper Asia, till the 
successful revolt of the Parthians confined their dominions 
between the Euphrates and the Mediterranean. When 
Syria became subject to the Romans, it formed the eastern 
frontier of their empire : nor did that province, in its ut- 
most latitude, know any other bounds than the mountains 
of Cappadocia to the north, and towards the south, the con- 
fines of Egypt, and the Red Sea. Phoenicia and Palestine 
were sometimes annexed to, and sometimes separated from, 
the jurisdiction of Syria. The former of these was a nar- 
row and rocky coast; the latter was a territory scarcely 
superior to Wales, either in fertility or extent.* Yet Phce- 

82 See the Periplus of A man. He examined the coasts of the Euxine, when 
he was governor of Cappadocia. 

* This comparison is exa^gerat^l, with the intention, no doubt, of attacking 
the authority of the Bible, which boasts of the fertility of Palestine. Gibbon's 


nicia and Palestine will forever live in the memory of man- 
kind ; since America, as well as Europe, has received letters 
from the one, and religion from the other. 63 A sandy desert, 

83 The progress of religion is well known. The use of letters was introduced 
among the savages of Europe about fifteen hundred years before Christ ; and the 
Europeans carried them to America about fifteen centuries after the Christian 
iEra. But in a period of three thousand yeais, the Phoenician alphabet re- 
ceived considerable alterations, as it passed through the hands of the Greeks and 

only authorities were that of Strabo (1. xvi. 1104) and the present state of the 
country. But Strabo only speaks of the neighborhood of Jerusalem, which he 
calls barren and arid to the extent of sixty stadia round the city : in other parts 
he gives a favorable testimony to the fertility of many parts of Palestine: thus 
he says, " Near Jericho there is a grove of palms, and a country of a hundred 
stadia, full of springs, and well peopled." Moreover, Strabo had never seen 
Palestine ; he spoke only after reports, which may be as inaccurate as those ac- 
cording to which he has composed that description of Geimany, in which Gluve- 
rius has detected so many errors. (Gluv. Germ. iii. 1.) Finally, his testimony is 
sontradicted and refuted by that of other ancient authors, and by medals. Taci- 
tus says, in speaking of Palestine, " The inhabitants are healthy and robust ; the 
rains moderate ; the soil fertile." (Hist. v. 6.) AmmianusMarcellinus.saysalso, 
** The last of theSyriasis Palestine, a country of considerable extent, abounding in 
clean and well-cultivated land. and containing some fine cities, none of which yields 
to the other ; but, as it were, being on a parallel, are rivals." — xiv.8. See also the 
histo iau Josephus, Hist. vi. 1. Procopius of Cesarea, who lived in the sixth 
century, says that Chosroes, king of Persia, had a great desire to make himself 
master of Palestine, on account oj^its extraoidinary fertility, its opulence, and the 
great number of its inhabitants. The Saracens thought the same, and were 
afraid that Omar, when he went to Jerusalem, charmed with the fertility of the 
soil, and the purity of the air, would never return to Medina. (Ockley, Hist, of 
Sarac. i. 232.) The importance attached by the Romans to the conquest of Pales- 
tine, and the obstacles they encountered, prove also the richness and population 
of the country. Vespasian and Titus caused medals to be struck, with trophies, 
in which Palestine is represented by a female under a palm-tree, to signify the 
richness of the country, with this legend : Judccacapfa. Other medals also indi- 
cate this fertility; for instance, that of Herod holding a bunch of grapes, and 
that of the young Agrippa displaying fruit. As to the present state of the 
country, one perceives that it is not fair to draw any inference against its ancient 
fertility ; the disasters through which it has passed, the government to which it 
is subject, the disposition of the inhabitants, explain sufficiently the wild and un- 
cultivated appearance of the land, where, nevertheless, fertile and cultivated 
districts are still found, according to the testimony of travellers ; among others, 
of Shaw, Maundrel, La Kocque, &c. — G. The Abbe Guenee, in his Lettres de quel- 
ques Juifs a ftfons. de Voltaire, has exhausted the subject of the fertility of Pales- 
tine ; for Voltaire had likewise indulged in sarcasm on this subject. Gibbon was 
assailed on this point, not, indeed, by Mr. Davis, who. he slyly insinuates, was 
prevented by his patriotism as a Welshman from resenting the comparison with 
Wak's, but by other writers. In his Vindication, he first established the correct- 
ness of his measurement of Palestine, which he estimates as 7G00 square English 
miles, while Wales is about 7011. As to the fertility, he proceeds in the following 
dexterously composed and splendid passage : "The emperor. Frederick II., the 
enemy and the victim of the clergy, is accused of saying, after his return from his 
crusade, that the God of the Jews would have despised his promised land, if he 
had once seen the fruitful realms of Sicily and Naples." (See Giannone, Istor. 
Civ. del P. di Napoli, ii. 245.) This raillery, which malice has, perhaps, falsely 
imputed to Frederick, is inconsistent with' truth and piety ; yet it must be con- 
fessed that the soil of Palestine does not contain that inexhaustible, and, as it 
were, spontaneous principle of fertility, which, under the most unfavorable cir- 
cumstances, has covered with rich harvests the banks of the Nile, the lields of 
Sicily, or the plains of Poland. The Jordan is the only navigable river of Pales- 
tine : a considerable part of the narrow space is occupied, or rather lost, in the 
Dead Sea, whose horrid aspect inspires every sensation of disgust, and counte- 
nances every tale of horror. The districts which border on Arabia partake of the 
sandy quality of the adjacent desert. The face of the country, except the sea- 
coast, and the valley of the Jordan, is covered with mountains, which appear, 
for the most part, as naked and barren rocks ; and in the neighborhood of jeru- 


alike destitute of wood and water, skirts along the doubtful 
confine of Syria, from the Euphrates to the Red Sea. The 
wandering life of the Arabs was inseparably connected with 
their independence; and wherever, on some spots less barren 
than the rest, they ventured to form any settled habitations, 
they soon became subjects to the Roman empire. 84 

The geographers of antiquity have frequently hesitated 
to what portion of the globe they should ascribe Egypt. 85 
By its situation that celebrated kingdom is included within 
the immense peninsula of Africa; but it is accessible only 
on the side of Asia, whose revolutions, in almost every 
period of history, Egypt has humbly obeyed. A Roman 

84 Dion Casf-ius, lib. lxviii. p. 1131. 

85 Ptolemy and Strabo, with the modern geographers, fix the Isthmus of Suez 
as the boundary of Asia and Africa. Diomsius, Mela, Pliny, Sallust', Birtius, 
and Solinns, have preferred for that purpose the western branch of the Js'ile, or 
even the great Catabathnius or descent, which last would assign to Asia, not only 
Egypt, but part of Libya. 

salem, there is a real scarcity of the two elements of earth and water. (See 
Maundrel's Travels, p. 65, and Keland's Palestin. i. 238, 385.) These disadvantages, 
which now operate in their fullest extent, were formerly corrected by the labors 
of a numerous people, and the active protection of a wise government. The hills 
were clothed with ii< h beds of artificial mould, the rain was collected in vast 
cisterns, a supply of fresh water was conveyed by pipes and aqueducts to the dry 
lands. The breed of cattle was encouraged in those parts which were not adapt- 
ed for tillage, and almost every s-pot was compelled to yield some production for 
the use of the inhabitants. 

Pater ipse colendi 
Hand facilem esse viam voluit, primusque per artem 
Movit agros ; curis acuens mortalia corda, 
Nee torpere gravi passus sua Regno, veterno. 

Gibbon, Misc. Works, iv. 540. 

But Gibbon has here eluded the question about the land " flowing with milk and 
honey." He is describing Judaea only, without comprehending Galilee, or the 
rich pastures beyond the Jordan, even now proverbial for their flocks and herds. 
(See Burckhardt's Travels, and Hist, of Jews, i. 178.) The following is believed to 
be a fair statement : " The extraordinary fertility of the whole country mutt be 
taken into the account. No part was waste; very little was occupied by un profit able 
wood; the more fertile hills were cultivated in artificial terraces, others were 
hung with orchards of fruit trees ; the more rocky and barren districts were cov- 
ered with vineyards." Even in the present day, the wars and misgovernment of 
ages have not exhausted the natural richness of the soil. " Galilee," says Malte 
Brun, " would be a paradise were it inhabited by an industrious people, under 
an enlightened government. No land could be less dependent on foreign impor- 
tation ; it bore within itself everything that could be necessary for the subsist- 
ence and comfort of a simple agricultural people. The climate was healthy, the 
seasons regular ; the former rains, winch fell about October, after the vintage, 
prepared the ground for the seed ; the latter, which prevailed during March and 
the beginning of April, made it grow rapidly. Directly the rains ceased, the 
grain ripened with still greater rapidity, and was gathered in before the end of 
May. The summer months were dry and very hot, but the nights cool and re- 
freshed by copious dews. In September, the vintage was gathered. Grain of all 
kinds, wheat, barley, millet, zea, and other sorts, grew in abundance ; the wheat 
commonly yielded thirty for one. Besides the •vine and the olive, the almond, 
the date, figs of many kinds, the orange, the pomegranate, and many other fruit 
trees, flourished in the greatest luxuriance. Great quantity of honey was col- 
lected. The balm-tree, which produced the opobalsamum, a great object of 
trade, was probably introduced from Arabia, in the time of Solomon. It flour- 
i bed about Jericho and in Gilead." — Milman's Hist, of Jews, i. 177.— M. 


praefect was seated on the splendid throne of the Ptolemies ; 
and the iron sceptre of the Mamelukes is now in the hands 
of a Turkish pacha. The Nile flows down the country, 
above five hundred miles from the tropic of Cancer to the 
Mediterranean, and marks on either side the extent of fer- 
tility by the measure of its inundations. Cyrene, situate 
towards the west, and along the sea-coast, was first a Greek 
colony, afterwards a province of Egypt, and is now lost in 
the desert of Barca.* 

From Cyrene to the ocean, the coast of Africa extends 
above fifteen hundred miles ; yet so closely is it pressed be- 
tween the Mediterranean and the Sahara, or sandy desert, 
that its breadth seldom exceeds fourscore or a hundred 
miles. The eastern division was considered by the Romans 
as the more peculiar and proper province of Africa. Till 
the arrival of the Phoenician colonies, that fertile country 
was inhabited by the Libyans, the most savage of mankind. 
Under the immediate jurisdiction of Carthage it became 
the centre of commerce and empire ; but the republic of 
Carthage is now degenerated into the feeble and disorderly 
states of Tripoli and Tunis. The military government of 
Algiers oppresses the wide extent of Numidia, as it was 
once united under Massinissa and Jugurtha ; but in the 
time of Augustus the limits of Numidia were contracted; 
and, at least, two-thirds of the country acquiesced in the 
name of Mauritania, with the epithet of Cassariensis. The 
genuine Mauritania, or country of the Moors, which, from 
the ancient city of Tingi, or Tangier, Avas distinguished by 
the appellation of Tingitana, is represented by the modern 
kingdom of Fez. Salle, on the Ocean, so infamous at pres- 
ent for its piratical depredations, was noticed by the Romans 
as the extreme object of their power, and almost of their 
geography. A city of their foundation may still be discov- 
ered near Mequinez, the residence of the barbarian whom 
we condescend to style the Emperor of Morocco ; but it 
does not appear that his more southern dominions, Morocco 
itself, and Segelmessa, were ever comprehended within the 
Roman province. The western parts of Africa are inter- 

* The French editor lias a long and unnecessary note on the History of Cvrene. 
For the present state of that coast and country, "the volume of Captain BeL'chy 
is fall of interesting details. Egypt, now an independent and improving king- 
dom, a->p?ars, under the enterprising rule of Mahommed AH, likelv to revenue its 
former oppression upon the decrepit power of the Turkish emnie.— M-— This 
note was written in 1*38. The future des'iny of Egypt is an important problem, 
only to be solved by time. This observation will also apply to the new French 
colony in Algiers. — M. 1845. 


sected by the branches of Mount Atlas, a name so icily cele- 
brated by the fancy of poets; 86 but which is now diffused 
over the immense 'ocean that rolls between the ancient and 
the new continent. 87 

Having now finished the circuit of the Roman empire, 
we may observe, that Africa is divided from Spain by a 
narrow strait of about twelve miles, through which the 
Atlantic flows into the Mediterranean. The columns of 
Hercules, so famous among the ancients, were two moun- 
tains which seemed to have been torn asunder by some con- 
vulsion of the elements ; and at the foot of the European 
mountain, the fortress of Gibraltar is now seated. The 
whole extent of the Mediterranean Sea, its coasts and its 
islands, were comprised within the Roman dominion. Of 
the larger islands, the two Baleares, which derive their 
names of Majorca and Minorca from their respective size, 
are subject at present, the former to Spain, the latter to 
Great Britain.* It is easier to deplore the fate, than to de- 
scribe the actual condition, of Corsica.f Two Italian sov- 
ereigns assume a legal title from Sardinia and Sicily. Crete, 
or Candia, with Cyprus, and most of the smaller islands of 
Greece and Asia, have been subdued by the Turkish arms ; 
whilst the little rock of Malta defies their power, and has 
emerged, under the government of its military Order, into 
fame and opulence.J 

This long enumeration of provinces; whose broken frag- 
ments have formed so many powerful kingdoms, might al- 
most induce us .to forgive the vanity or ignorance of the 
ancients. Dazzled with the extensive sway, the irresistible 
strength, and the real or affected moderation of the empe- 
rors, they permitted themselves to despise, and sometimes 
to forget, the outlying countries, which had been left in the 
enjoyment of a barbarous independence ; and they gradu- 

86 The long range, moderate height, and gentle declivity of Mount Atlas (see 
Shaw's Travels, p. 5.) are very unlike a solitary mountain which rears its head into 
the clouds, and seems to support the heavens. The peak of Teneriif , on the con- 
trary, rises a league and a half above the surface of the sea ; and, as it was fre- 
quently visited by the Phoenicians, might engage the notice of the Greek poets. 
See Buffon, Histoire Naturelle, torn. i. p. 312. Histoire des Voyages, torn. ii. 

87 M da Voltaire, torn. xiv. p. 297, unsupported by either fact or probability, 
has generously bestowed the Canary Islands on the Roman empire. 

* Minorca was lost to Great Britain in 1782. Ann. Register for that year. — M. 

t The gallant struggles of the Corsicans for their independence, under Paoli, 
were brought to a close in the year 1769- This volume was published in 1776. See 
Botta, Storia d' Italia, vol. xiv. — M. 

+ Malta, it need scarcely be said, is now in the possession of the English. We 
have not, however, thought necessary to notice every change in the political state 
of the world, since the time of Gibbon.— M. 


ally usurped the license of confounding the Roman mon- 
archy with the globe of the earth. 88 But the temper, as 
well as the knowledge, of a modern historian require a 
more sober and accurate language. He may impress a 
juster image of the greatness of Rome, by observing that 
the empire was above two thousand miles in breadth, from 
the wall of Antoninus and the northern limits of Dacia, to 
Mount Atlas and the tropic of Cancer ; that it extended in 
length more than three thousand miles from the Western 
Ocean to the Euphrates ; that it was situated in the finest 
part of the Temperate Zone, between the twenty-fourth 
and fifty-sixth degrees of northern latitude ; and that it was 
supposed to contain above sixteen hundred thousand square 
miles, for the most part of fertile and well-cultivated land. 89 

88 Bergier, Hist, des Grands Chemins, 1. iii. c. 1, 2, 3, 4, a very useful collection. 

89 See Templeman's Survey of the Globe ; but I distrust both the Doctor's learn- 
ing and his maps. 




It is not alone by the rapidity or extent of conquest that 
we should estimate the greatness of Rome. The sovereign 
of the Russian deserts commands a larger portion of the 
globe. In the seventh summer after his passage of the Hel- 
lespont, Alexander erected the Macedonian trophies on the 
banks of the Hyphasis. 1 Within less than a century, the 
irresistible Zingis, and the Mogul princes of his race, spread 
their cruel devastations and transient empire from the sea of 
China to the confines of Egypt and Germany. 2 But the 
firm edifice of Roman power was raised and preserved by 
the wisdom of ages. The obedient provinces of Trajan and 
the Antonines were united by laws, and adorned by arts. 
They might occasionally suffer from the partial abuse of 
delegated authority ; but the general principle of government 
was wise, simple, and beneficent. They enjoyed the religion 
of their ancestors, whilst in civil honors and advantages they 
were exalted, by just degrees, to an equality with their 

I. The policy of the emperors and the senate, so far as it 
concerned religion, was happily seconded by the reflections of 
the enlightened, and by the habits of the superstitious, part of 
their subjects. The various modes of worship, which pre- 

1 They were erected about the midway between Labor and Delhi. The conquests 
of Alexander in Hindostan were confined to the Punjab, a country watered by the 
five great streams of the Indus.* 

2 See M. de Guignes, Histoire des Huns, 1. xv. xvi. and xvii. 

* Tbe Hyphasis is one of the five rivers which join the Indus or the Sind, after 
having traversed the province of Pendj-ab— a name wbich, in Persian, signifies 
five rivers. * * * G. The five rivers were, 1. The Hydaspes, now tbe Chelum, 
Behni. or Bedusta (Sanscrit, Vitasha, Arrow-swift). 2. The Acesines, tbe Cbenab 
(Sanscrit, Chandrabbaga, Moon-gift). 3. Hydraotes, tbeRavey, or Iraoty (Sanscrit, 
Iravati.) 4. Hyphasis, the Beyah (Sanscrit, Vespasa, Fetterless). 5. Tbe Satadru 
(Sanscrit, the Hundred Streamed), the Sutledj, known first to the Greeks in the 
time of Ptolemy, Rennel, Vincent, Commerce of Anc. book 2. Lassen. Pentapo- 
tam. Ind. Wilson's Sanscrit Diet., and tbe valuable memoir of Lieut. Burnes, 
Journal of London Geogr. Society, vol. iii. p. 2, with the travels of that very able 
writer. Compare Gibbon's own note, c. lxv- uo.e 25.— M. substit. for G. 


vailed in the Roman world, were all considered by the people 
as equally true ; by the philosopher, as equally false ; and 
by the magistrate, as equally useful. And thus toleration 
produced not only mutual indulgence, but even religious 

The superstition of the people was not embittered by any 
mixture of theological rancor ; n r was it confined by the 
chains of any speculative system. The devout polytheist, 
though fondly attached to his national rites, admitted with 
implicit faith the different religions of the earth. 3 Fear, grati- 
tude, and curiosity, a dream or an omen, a singular disorder, 
or a distant journey, perpetually disposed him to multiply the 
articles of his belief, and to enlarge the list of his protectors. 
The thin texture of the Pagan mythology was interwoven 
with various, but not discordant materials. As soon as it was 
allowed that sages and heroes, who had lived or who had died 
for the benefit of their country, were exalted to a state of 
power and immortality, it was universally confessed that they 
deserved, if not the adoration, at least the reverence, of all 
mankind. The deities of a thousand groves and a thousand 
streams possessed, in peace, their local and respective influ- 
ence ; nor could the Roman who deprecated the wrath of the 
Tiber, deride the Egyptian who presented his offering to the 
beneficent genius of the Nile. The visible powers of nature, 
the planets, and the elements, were the same throughout the 
universe. The invisible governors of the moral world were 
inevitably cast in a similar mould of fiction and allegory. 

3 There is not any writer who describes in so lively a manner as Herodotus the 
true genius of polytheism. The best commentary may be found in Mr. Hume's 
Natural History of Religion ; and the best contrast in Bossuet's Universal His- 
tory. Some obscure traces of an intolerant spirit appear in the conduct of the 
Egyptians (see Juvenal Sat. xv.) ; and the Christians, as well as Jews, who lived 
under the Roman empire, formed a very important exception ; so important, in- 
deed, that the discussion will require a distinct chapter of this work.* 

* M. Constant in his very learned and eloquent work, " Sur la Religion," with 
two additional volumes, "Du Polytheisme Ronviin," has considered ihe whole 
history of polytheism in a tone of philosophy, which, without subscribing to all 
his opinions, we may be permitted to admire. •' The boasted tolerance of poly- 
theism did not rest upon the respect due f om society to the freedom of individual 
opinion. The polytheistic nations, tolerant a; they were towards each other, as 
separate states, were not the less ignorant of Ike eternal principle, the only basis 
of enlightened toleration, that everyone has a right to worship God in the manner 
which seems to him the best. Citizens, on the contrary, were bound to conform 
to the religion of the state ; they had not the liberty to adopt a foreign religion, 
though that religion might be legally recognized in. their own city, for the 
strangers who were its votaries."— Sur la Religion, v. 18-1. Du Polyth. Rom. iii. 
308. At this time, the growing religious indifference, and the general adminis- 
tration of the empire by Romans, who, being strangers, would do no more than 
protect, not enlist themselves in the cause of ihe local superstitions, had intro- 
duced great laxity. But intolerance was clearly the theory both of the Greek and 
Roman law. The subject is more fully considered in another place.— M. 


Every virtue, and even vice, acquired its divine representa- 
tive ; every art and profession its patron, whose attributes, in 
the most distant ages and countries, were uniformly derived 
from the character of their peculiar votaries. A republic of 
gods, of such opposite tempers and interests, required, in 
every system, the moderating hand of a supreme magistrate, 
who, by the progress of knowledge and flattery, was gradu- 
ally invested with the sublime perfections of an Eternal 
Parent and an Omnipotent Monarch. 4 Such was the mild 
spirit of antiquity, that the nations were less attentive to 
the difference, than to the resemblance, of their religious 
worship. The Greek, the Roman, and the Barbarian, as 
they met before their respective altars, easily persuaded 
themselves, that under various names, and with various 
ceremonies, they adored the same deities. 5 The elegant 
mythology of Homer gave a beautiful, and almost a regular 
form, to the polytheism of the ancient world 

The philosophers of Greece deduced their morals from 
the nature of man, rather than from that of God. They 
meditated, however, on the Divine Nature, as a very curious 
and important speculation ; and in the profound inquiry, 
they displayed the strength and weakness of the human 
understanding. 6 Of the four most celebrated schools, the 
Stoics and the Platonists endeavored to reconcile the jarring 
interests of reason and piety. They have left us the most 
sublime proofs of the existence and perfections of the first 
cause ; but, as it was impossible for them to conceive the 
creation of matter, the workman in the Stoic philosophy 
was not sufficiently distinguished from the work ; whilst, on 
the contrary, the Spiritual God of Plato and his disciples 
resembled an idea, rather than a substance. The opinions 
of the Academics and Epicureans were of a less religious 
cast ; but whilst the modest science of the former induced 

* The rights, powers, and pretensions of the sovereign of Olympus, are very 
clearly described in the xvth book of the Iliad ; in the Greek original, 1 mean ; 
for Mr. Pope, without perceiving it, has improved the theology of Homer.* 

5 See, for instance, Caesar de Bell. Gall. vi. 17. Within a, century or two, the 
Gauls themselves applied to their gods the namesof Mercury, Mars, Apollo, &c. 

The admirable work of Cicero de Natura Deorum, is the best clew we have to 
guide us through the dark and profound abyss. He represents with candor, and 
confutes with subtlety, the opinions of the philosophers. 

* There is a curious coincidence between Gibbon's explanation and those of 
the newlv-recovered " De Republica " of Cicero, though the argument is rather 
the converse, lib. i. c. CG. " feive luec ad utilitatem vi'33 constitutasinta principi- 
bus rcrum publicaruin, ut rex putaretur unus e?se in coclo, qui nutu, ut ait 
Homerus, to turn Olympum converteret, idemque et rex et pater haberetur omni- 

um." — M. 


them to doubt, the positive ignorance of the latter urged 
them to deny, the providence of a Supreme Ruler. The 
spirit of inquiry, prompted by emulation, and supported by 
freedom, had divided the public teachers of philosophy into 
a variety of contending sects ; but the ingenious youth, 
who, from every part, resorted to Athens and the other 
seats of learning in the Roman Empire, were alike instructed 
in every i.chool to reject and to despise the religion of the 
multitude. How, indeed, was it possible, that a philosopher 
should accept, as divine truths, the idle tales of the poets, 
and the incoherent traditions of antiquity ; or that he 
should adore, as gods, those imperfect beiugs whom he 
must have despised as men ? Against such unworthy 
adversaries, Cicero condescended to employ the arms of 
reason and eloquence ; but the satire of Lucian was a much 
more adequate, as well as a more efficacious weapon. We 
may be well assured, that a writer, conversant with the 
world, would never have ventured to expose the gods of his 
country to public ridicule, had they not already been the 
objects of secret contempt among the polished and enlight- 
ened orders of society. 7 

Notwithstanding the fashionable irreligion which prevailed 
in the age of the Antonines, both the interest of the priests 
and the credulity of the people were sufficiently respected. 
In their writings and conversation, the philosophers of 
antiquity asserted the independent dignity of reason ; but 
they resigned their actions to the commands of law and of 
custom. Viewing, with a smile of pity and indulgence, the 
various errors of the vulgar, they diligently practised the 
ceremonies of their fathers, devoutly frequented the temples 
of the gods ; and sometimes condescending to act a part on 
the theatre of superstition, they concealed the sentiments of 
an atheist under the sacerdotal robes. Reason ers of such a 
temper were scarcely inclined to wrangle about their respec- 
tive modes of faith, or of worship. It was indifferent to 
them what shape the folly of the multitude might choose to 
assume ; and they approached with the same inward con- 
tempt, and the same external reverence, the altars of the 
Libyan, the Olympian, or the Capitoline Jupiter. 8 

It is not easy to conceive from what motives a spirit of 

" I do not pretend to assert, that, in this irreligious age. the natural terrors of 
superstition, dreams, omens, apparitions, &c, had lost their efficacy. 

8 Socrates, Epicurus, Cicero, and Plutarch always inculcated adecent reverence 
for the religion of their own country, and of mankind. The devotion of Epicurus 
was assiduous and exemplary. Diogen. Laert. x. 10. 


persecution could introduce itself into the Roman councils. 
The magistrates could not be actuated by a blind, though 
honest bigotry, since the magistrates were themselves 
philosophers, and the schools of Athens had given laws to 
the senate. They could not be impelled by ambition or 
avarice, as the temporal and ecclesiastical powers were 
united in the same hands. The pontiffs were chosen among 
the most illustrious of the senators ; and the office of 
Supreme Pontiff was constantly exercised by the emperors 
themselves. They knew and valued the advantages of 
religion, as it is connected with civil government. They 
encouraged the public festivals which humanize the manners 
of the people. They managed the arts of divination, as a 
convenient instrument of policy; and they respected, as the 
firmest bond of society, the useful persuasion, that, either in 
this or in a future life, the crime of perjury is most assur- 
edly punished by the avenging gods. 9 But whilst they 
acknowledged the general advantages of religion, they were 
convinced that the various modes of worship contributed 
•alike to the same salutary purposes ; and that, in every 
country, the form of superstition, which had received the 
sanction of time and experience, was the best adapted to 
the climate and to its inhabitants. Avarice and taste very 
frequently despoiled the vanquished nations of the elegant 
statues of their orods and the rich ornaments of their 
temples ; 10 but, in the exercise of the religion which they 
derived from their ancestors, they uniformly experienced 
the indulgence, and even protection, of the Roman con- 
querors. The province of Gaul seems, and indeed only 
seems, an exception to this universal toleration. Under the 
specious pretext of abolishing human sacrifices, the em- 
perors Tiberius and Claudius suppressed the dangerous 
power of the Druids : n but the priests themselves, their gods 
and their altars, subsisted in peaceful obscurity till the final 
destruction of Paganism. 12 

Rome, the capital of a great monarchy, was incessantly 
filled with subjects and strangers from every part of the 
world, 13 who all introduced and enjoyed the favorite super- 

Polybius, 1. vi. c. 53, 5J. Juvenal. Sat. xili. laments that in his time this ap- 
prehension had lost much of its effect. 

' See the fate of Syracuse, Taventum, Ambracia. Corinth, &c., the conduct of 
Verres, in Cicero (Actio ii. Ora. 4), and the usual practice of governors, in the 
viiith Satire of Juvenal. 

11 Sueton. in ( laud.— Plin. Hist. Mat. xxx. 1. 

12 Pelloutier, Histoire des Celtes, torn. vi. p. 230-252. 

13 Seneca, Consolat. ad Helviam, p. 74. Jb:dit. Lips. 


stitions of their native country. 14 Every city in the 
empire was justified in maintaining the purity of its ancient 
ceremonies : and the Roman senate, using the common 
privilege, sometimes interposed to check this inundation of 
foreign rites.* The Egyptian superstition, of all the most 
contemptible and abject, was frequently prohibited ; the 
temples of Serapis and Isis demolished, and their worship- 
pers banished from Rome and Italy. 15 But the zeal of 
fanaticism prevailed over the cold and feeble efforts of 
policy. The exiles returned, the proselytes multiplied, the 
temples were restored with increasing splendor, and Isis 
and Serapis at length assumed their places among the 
Roman Deities. 16 Nor was this indulgence a departure 
from the old maxims of government. In the purest ages of 
the commonwealth, Cybele and ^Esculapius had been invited 
by solemn embassies ; n and it was customary to tempt the 
protectors of besieged cities, by the promise of more dis- 
tinguished honors than they possessed in their native 
country. 18 Rome gradually became the common temple of 
her subjects ; and the freedom of the city was bestowed on. 
all the gods of mankind. 19 

14 Diony^ius Halicarn. Antiquitat. Roman. 1. ii. [vol. i. p. 275, edit. Reiske.] 

15 In the year of Koine 701, the temple of Isis and Serapis was demolished by 
the order of the Semite (Dion Cassius, 1. xl. p. 2.32) ; and even by the hands of the 
consul (Valerius Maximus, 1, 3).t After the death of Caesar, it was restored at 
the public expense (Dion, 1. xlvii. p. 501.) When Augustus was in Egypt, he 
revered the majesty of Serapis (Dion, 1. Ii. p. 047) ; but in the Poimerium of Lome, 
and a mile round it, he prohibited the worship of the Egyptian gods (Lion, 1. liii. 
p, 679 ; 1. liv. p. 735). They remained, however, very fashionable under his reign 
(Ovid, de Art. Amand. 1. i.) and that of his successor, till the justice of Tiberius 
was provoked to some acts of severity. (See Tacit. Annal. ii. 85. Joseph. 
Aiiti'juit. 1. xviii. c. 3.)$ 

1 > Tertullian in Apologetic, c. 6, p. 74. Edit. Havercamp. I am inclined to 
attribute their establishment to the devotion of the Flavian family. 

17 See Livy, 1. xi. [Suppl.] and xxix. 

18 Macrob. Saturnalia, 1. iii. c 9. He gives us a form of evocation. 

19 Minutius Faelix in Octavio, p. 51. Arnobius, 1. vi. p. 115. 

* Yet the worship of foreign gods at Lome was only guaranteed to the natives 
of those countries from whence they came. The Romans administered the 
priestly offices only to the gods of their fathers. Gibbon, throughout the whole 
preceding sketch of the opinions of the Romans and their subjects, has shown 
through what causes they were free from religious hatred and its consequences. 
But, on the other hand, the internal state of these religions, the infidelity and 
hypocrisy of the upper orders, the indifference towards all religion, in even the 
better part of the common people, during the last d ays of the republic, and under 
the Caesars, and the corrupting principles of the philosophers, had exercised a 
very pernicious influence on the manners, and even on the constitution. — W. 

t Gibbon here blends into one, two events, distant a hundred and sixty-six years 
from each other. It was in the year of Rome 535, that the senate having ordered 
the destruction of the temples of Isis and Serapis. no workman would lend his 
hand; and the consul, L. ^Emilius Panlus himself (Valer. Max. 1. 3) seized the 
axe, to give the first blow. Gibbon attributes this circumstance to the second 
demolition, which took place in the year 701, and which he considers as the first. 
— W. 

t Sec in the pictures from the walls of Pompeii the representation of an Isiac 
temple and worship. Vestiges of Egyptian worship have been traced in Gaul, 
and, I am informed, recently in Britain, in excavations at York. — M. 


II. The narrow policy of preserving, without any foreign 
mixture, the pure blood of the ancient citizens, had checked 
the fortune, and hastened the ruin, of Athens and Sparta. 
The aspiring genius of Rome sacrificed vanity to ambition, 
and deemed it more prudent, as well as honorable, to adopt 
virtue and merit for her own wheresoever they were found, 
among slaves or strangers, enemies or barbarians. 20 During 
the most flourishing aera of the Athenian commonwealth, 
the number of citizens gradually decreased from about 
thirty' 21 to twenty-one thousand. 22 If, on the contrary, we 
study the growth of the Roman republic, we may discover, 
that, notwithstanding the incessant demands of wars and 
Colonies, the citizens, who, in the first census of Servius 
Tnllius, amounted to no more than eighty-three thousand, 
were multiplied, before the commencement of the social war, 
to the number of four hundred and sixty-three thousand 
men, able to bear arms in the service of their country. 23 
When the allies of Rome claimed an equal share of honors 
and privileges, the senate indeed preferred the chance of 
arms to an ignominious concession. The Samnites and the 
Lucanians paid the severe penalty of their rashness ; but the 
rest of the Italian states, as they successively returned to 
their duty, were admitted into the bosom of the republic, 24 
and soon contributed to the rnin of public freedom. Under 
a democratical government, the citizens exercise the powers 
of sovereignty ; and those powers will be first abused, and 
afterwards lost, if they are committed to an unwieldy mul- 
titude. But when the popular assemblies had been sup- 

20 Tacit. Annal. xi. 24. The Orbis Romanus of the learned Spanheim is a com- 
plete history of the progressive admission of Lathi m, Italy, and the provinces, 
to the freedom of Rome.* 

21 Herodotus, v. 97. It should seem, however, that he followed a large and 
popular estimation. 

-'-' Athenaeus, Deipnosophist. 1. vi. p. 272. Edit. Casaubon. Meursius de For- 
tuna Attica, c. 4.t 

23 See a very accurate collection of the numbers of each Lustrum in M. de 
Beaufort, Republique Romaine, 1. iv. c. 44 

24 Appian. de Bell. Civil. 1. i. Velleius Paterculus, 1. ii. c. 15, 16, 17. 

* Democratic states, observes Denina (delle Revoluz. d' Italia, 1. ii. e. 1), are 
most jealous of communicating the privileges of citizenship ; monarchies or oli- 
garchies willingly multiply ihe numbers of their free subjects. The most remark- 
able accessions to the strength of Rome, by the aggregation of conquered and 
foreign nations, took place under the regal and patriciau — we may add, the Im- 
perial government. — M. 

t On the number of citizens in Athens?, compare Boeckh, Public Economy of 
Athens (English Tr.), p. 45, et. seq. Fy nes Clinton, Essay in Fasti Hellenici, vol. 
i. 38!.— M. 

t All these questions are placed in an entirely new point 'of view by Niebuhr, 
(Romische Geschichte, vol. i. p. 464.) He rejects' the census of Servius Tullius as 
unhistoric (vol. iii. p. 78. et seq.), and he establishes the principle that the census 
comprehended all the confederate cities which had the right of Isopolity. — M. 


pressed by the administration of the emperors, the con- 
querors were distinguished from the vanquished nations, 
only as the first and most honorable order of subjects, and 
their increase, however rapid, was no longer exposed to the 
same dangers. Yet the wisest princes, who adopted the 
maxims of Augustus, guarded with the strictest care the 
dignity of the Roman name, and diffused the freedom of the 
city with a prudent liberality. 25 

Till the privileges of Romans had been progressively ex- 
tended to all the inhabitants of the empire, an important dis- 
tinction was preserved between Italy and the provinces. 
The former was esteemed the centre of public unity, and the 
firm basis of the constitution. Italy claimed the birth, or at 
least the residence, of the emperors and the senate. 26 The 
estates of the Italians were exempt from taxes, their persons 
from the arbitrary jurisdiction of governors. Their munic- 
ipal corporations, formed after the perfect model of the 
capital,* were intrusted, under the immediate eye of the 
supreme power, with the execution of the laws. From the 
foot of the Alps to the extremity of Calabria, all the natives 
of Italy were born citizens of Rome. Their partial distinc- 
tions were obliterated, and they insensibly coalesced into 
one great nation, united by language, manners, and civil in- 
stitutions, and equal to the weight of a powerful empire. 
The republic gloried in her generous policy, and was fre- 
quently rewarded by the merit and services of her adopted 
sons. Had she always confined the distinction of Romans 
to the ancient families within the walls of the eity, that im- 
mortal name would have been deprived of some of its noblest 
ornaments. Virgil was a native of Mantua ; Horace was in- 
clined to doubt whether he should call himself an Apulian 
or a Lucanian ; it was in Padua that an historian was found 
worthy to record the majestic series of Roman victories. 
The patriot family of the Catos emerged from Tusculum ; 
and the little town of Arpinum claimed the double honor of 

25 Maecenas had advised him to declare, by one edict, all his subjects citizens. 
But we may justly suspect that the historian Dion was the author of a counsel 
so much adapted to the practice of his own age, and so little to that of Augustus. 

2 > The senators were obliged to have one-third of their own landed property in 
Italy. See Plin. I. vi. ep. 19. The qualilication was reduced by Marcus to one- 
fourth. Since the reign of Trajan, Italy has sunk nearer to the level of the prov- 

* It may be doubted whether the municipal government of the cities was not 
the old Italian constitution, rather than a transcript from that of Home. The 
free government of the cities, observes Savigny, was the leading characteristic of 
Italy. Geschichte aes Rcmischen Keehts, i. p. 16.— M. 


producing Marius and Cicero, the former of whom deserved, 
after Romulus and Camillus, to be styled the Third Founder 
of Rome ; and the latter, after saving his country from the 
designs of Catiline, enabled her to contend with Athens for 
the palm of eloquence. 27 

The provinces of the empire (as they have been described 
in the preceding chapter) were destitute of any public force, 
or constitutional freedom. In Etruria, in Greece, 28 and in 
Gaul, 29 it was the first care of the senate to dissolve those 
dangerous confederacies, which taught mankind that, as 
the Roman arms prevailed by division, they might be re- 
sisted by union. Those princes, whom the ostentation of 
gratitude or generosity permitted for a while to hold a pre- 
carious sceptre, were dismissed from their thrones, as soon 
as they had performed their appointed task of fashioning to 
the yoke the vanquished nations. The free states and cities 
which had embraced the cause of Rome were rewarded with 
a nominal alliance, and insensibly sunk into real servitude. 
The public authority was everywhere exercised by the 
ministers of the senate and of the emperors, and that autho- 
rity was absolute and without control.f But the same salu- 
tary maxims of government, which had secured the peace 
and obedience of Italy, were extended to the most distant 
conquests. A nation of Romans was gradually formed in 
the provinces, by the double expedient of introducing 
colonies, and of admitting the most faithful and deserving 
of the provincials to the freedom of Rome. 

" Wheresoever the Roman conquers, he inhabits," is a 
very just observation of Seneca, 30 confirmed by history and 
experience. The natives of Italy, allured by pleasure or by 
interest, hastened to enjoy the advantages of victory ; and 
we may remark, that, about forty years after the reduction 
of Asia, eighty thousand Romans were massacred in one 

27 The first part of the Verona lllustrata of the Marquis Maffei gives the clear- 
est and most comprehensive view of the state of Italy under the Caesars.* 

28 See Pausanias, 1. vii. The Romans condescended to restore the names of 
those assemblies, when they could no longer be dangerous. 

29 Tbey are frequently mentioned by Caesar. The Abbe Dubos attempts, with 
very little success, to prove that the assemblies of Gaul were continued under the 
emperors. Histoire de l'Etablissement de la Monarchic Francoise, 1. i. c. 4. 

30 Seneca in Consolat. ad Helviam, c. 6. 

* Compare Denina, Revol. d' Italia, 1. ii. c. 6, p. 100, 4to edit. 

t This is, perhaps, rather overstated. Most cities retained the choice -of their 
municipal officers : ^ome retained valuable privileges ; Athens, for instance, in 
form was still a confederate city. (Tac. Ann. ii. 5->.) These privileges, indeed, 
depended entirely on the arbitrary will of the empero;-, Who revoked or restored 
them according to his caprice. See Walther Gesohichte des Rbmischen Rechts, 
L 324 — an admirable summary of the Roman constitutional history. — M. 



day, by the cruel orders of Mithridates. 81 These voluntary 
exiles were engaged, for the most part, in the occupations 
of commerce, agriculture, and the farm of the revenue. 
But after the legions were rendered permanent by the em- 
perors, the provinces were peopled by a race of soldiers; 
and the veterans, whether they received the reward of their 
service m land or in money, usually settled with their fami- 
lies in the country, where they had honorably spent their 
youth. Throughout the empire, but more particularly in 
the western parts, the most fertile districts, and the most 
convenient situations, were reserved for the establishment 
of colonies ; some of which were of a civil, and others of a 
military nature. In their manners and internal policy, the 
colonies formed a perfect representation of their great 
parent ; and as they were soon endeared to the natives by 
the ties of friendship and alliance, they effectually diffused 
a reverence for the lioman name, and a desire which was 
seldom disappointed, of sharing, in due time, its honors and 
advantages. 32 The municipal cities insensibly equalled the 
rank and splendor of the colonies ; and in the reign of 
Hadrian, it was disputed which was the preferable condi- 
tion, of those societies which had issued from, or those 
which had been received into, the bosom of Rome. 33 The 
right of Latium, as it was called,* conferred on the cities to 
which it had been granted a more partial favor. The 
magistrates only, at the expiration of their office, assumed 
the quality of Roman citizens ; but as those offices were an- 
nual, in a few years they circulated round the principal 
families. 34 Those of the provincials Avho were permitted to 
bear arms in the legions; 35 those who exercised any civil 
employment ; all, in a word, who jjerformed any public 

81 Memnon ap ;d Photium (e. 33) [c. 224, p. 231, ed. Bekker]. Valer. Maxim, 
ix. 2. Plutarch and Dion Cassius swell the nu.ssacre to 150,000 citizens ; but I 
should esteem tue smaller number to be more than sufficient. 

"■'■ Twenty-live colonies were settled in Spain (see Plin. Hist. Nat. iii. 3, 4 ; iv. 
35); and nine in Britain, of which London, Colchester, Lincoln, Chester, Glou- 
cester, and Bath still remain considerable cities. (See Itichard of Cirencester, 
p. ;;G, ami Wliittaker's History of Manchester, 1. i. c. 3.) 

» Au). Gel. Nootes Atticse. xvi. 13. The Emperor Hadrian expre.-sed his sur- 
prise, that the c ties of Utica, Gades, and Italica, which already enjoyed the 
rights of Munlcipia, should solicit the title of colonies. Their example, how- 
ever, beeaini fashionable, and the empire was lilled with honorary colonies. See 
Spanheim, de Usu Xumismatum Dissertat. xii. 

- l Spanheim, Orois Roman, c. 8, p. 62. 

85 Aristid. in Romue Encomio, torn. i. p. 21^', edit. Jebb. 

* The right of Latium conferred an exemption from the government of the 
Roman praefect. Strabo states this distinctly, 1. iv. p. 295, edit. Casaub. See also 
Walther, p. 233.— M. 


service, or displayed any personal talents, were rewarded 
with a present, whose value was continually diminished by 
the increasing liberality of the emperors. Yet even, in the 
age of the Antonines, when the freedom of the city had 
been bestowed on the greater number of their subjects, it 
was still accompanied with very solid advantages. The 
bulk of the people acquired, with that title, the benefit of 
the Roman laws, particularly in the interesting articles of 
marriage, testaments, and inheritances ; and the road of 
fortune was open to those whose pretensions were seconded 
by favor or merit. The grandsons of the Gauls who had 
besieged Julius Caesar in Alesia commanded legions, gov- 
erned provinces, and were admitted into the senate of 
Rome. 36 Their ambition, instead of disturbing the tran- 
quillity of the state, was intimately connected with its safety 
and greatness. 

So sensible were the Romans of the influence of language 
over national manners, that it was their most serious care 
to extend, with the progress of their arms, the use of the 
Latin tongue. 37 The ancient dialects of Italy, the Sabine, 
the Etruscan, and the Venetian, sunk into oblivion ; but in 
the provinces, the east was less docile than the west to the 
voice of its victorious preceptors. This obvious difference 
marked the two portions of the empire with a distinction of 
colors, which, though it was in some degree concealed dur- 
ing the meridian splendor of prosperity, became gradually 
more visible, as the shades of night descended upon the 
Roman w r orld. The western countries were civilized by the 
same hands which subdued them. As soon as the bar- 
barians were reconciled to obedience, their minds were 
opened to any new impressions of knowledge and polite- 
ness. The language of Virgil and Cicero, though with 
some inevitable mixture of corruption, was so universally 
adopted in Africa, Spain, Gaul, Britain, and Pannonia, 38 

36 Tacit. Aiuial. xi. 23, 24. Hist. iv. 74. 

37 See Plin. Hist. Natiir, iii. 5. Augustin de Civitate Dei, xix. 7. Lipsius de 
pronuiii iatione Linguae Latin se, c. 3. 

38 Apuleius and Augustin will answer for Africa ; St' abo for Spain and Gaul; 
Tacitus, in the life of Agricola, for Britain; and Velleius Paterculus, for Panno- 
nia. To them we may add the language of the Inscriptions.* 

* Mr. Hallam contests this assertion as regards Britain. "Nor did the Ro- 
mans ever establish their language— I know not whether they wished to do so — 
in this island, as we perceive by that stubborn British tongue which has survived 
two conquests." In his note, Mr. Hallam examines the passage from Tacitus 
(Agric. xxi.) to which Gibbon rei'ers. It merely asserts the pi ogress of Latin 
studies among the higher orders. (Midd. Ages, iii. 314.) Probably it was a kind 
of court language, and that of public affairs, and prevailed in the Roman colo- 
nies.— M. 


that the faint traces of the Punic or Celtic idioms were 
preserved only in the mountains, or among the peasants. 39 
Education and study insensibly inspired the natives of those 
countries with the sentiments of Romans ; and Italy gave 
fashions, as well as laws, to her Latin provincials. They 
solicited with more ardor, and. obtained with more facility, 
the freedom and honors of the state ; supported the national 
dignity in letters 40 and in arms ; and at length, in the per- 
son of Trajan, produced an emperor whom the Scipios 
would not have disowned for their countryman. The 
situation of the Greeks was very different from that of the 
barbarians. The former had been long since civilized and 
corrupted. They had too much taste to relinquish their 
language, and too much vanity to adopt any foreign institu- 
tions. Still preserving the prejudices, after they had lost the 
virtues, of their ancestors, they affected to despise the un- 
polished manners of the Roman conquerors, whilst they 
were compelled to respect their superior wisdom and 
power. 41 Nor was the influence of the Grecian language 
and sentiments confined to the narrow limits of that once 
celebrated country. Their empire, by the progress of 
colonies and conquest, had been diffused from the Adriatic 
to the Euphrates and the Nile. Asia was covered witli 
Greek cities, and the long reign of the Macedonian kings 
had introduced a silent revolution into Syria and Egypt. 
In their pompous courts, those princes united the elegance 
of Athens with the luxury of the East, and the example of 
the court was imitated, at an humble distance, by the 
higher ranks of their subjects. Such was the general divis- 
ion of the Roman Empire into the Latin and Greek lan- 
guages. To these we may add a third distinction for the body 
of the natives in Syria, and especially in Egypt. The use 
of their ancient dialects, by secluding them from the commerce 
of mankind, checked the improvements of those barbarians. 4 * 2 
The slothful effeminacy of the former exposed them to the 

39 The Celtic was preserved in the mountains of Wales, Cornwall, and Ar- 
morica. We m;ry observe, that Apuleius reproaches an African youth, who lived 
among the populace, with the use of the Punic ; whilst h ■ had almost forgot 
Greek, and neither could nor would speak Latin (Apolog. p. 5CC). The greater 
part of St. Austin's congregations were strangers to the Punic. 

i0 Spain alone produced Columella, the Senecas, Lucau, Martial, and Quin- 

41 There is not, I believe, from Dionysius to Libanius, a single Greek critic 
who mentions Virgil or Horace. They seem ignorant that the Romans had any 
good writers. 

•- The curious reader may see in Dupin (Bibliotheque Eeclesiastique. torn. 
xix. p. 1. c. 8), how much the use of the Syriac and Egyptian languages was still 


contempt, the sullen ferociousness of the latter excited the 
aversion, of the conquerors. 43 Those nations had submitted 
to the Roman power, but they seldom desired or deserved 
the freedom of the city : and it was remarked, that more 
than two hundred and thirty years elapsed after the ruin 
of the Ptolemies, before an Egyptian was admitted into the 
senate of Rome. 44 

It is a just though trite observation, that victorious 
Rome was herself subdued by the arts of Greece. Those 
immortal writers who still command the admiration of 
modern Europe, soon became the favorite object of study 
and imitation in Italy and the western provinces. But the 
elegant amusements of the Romans were not suffered to in- 
terfere with their sound maxims of policy. Whilst they 
acknowledged the charms of the Greek, they asserted the 
dignity of the Latin tongue, and the exclusive use of the 
latter was inflexibly maintained in the administration of 
civil as well as military government. 45 The two languages 
exercised at the same time their separate jurisdiction 
throughout the empire : the former, as the natural idiom of 
science; the latter, as the legal dialect of public transac- 
tions. Those who united letters with business were 
equally conversant with both ; and it was almost im- 
possible, in any province, to find a Roman subject, of a 
liberal education, who was at once a stranger to the Greek 
and to the Latin language. 

It was by such institutions that the nations of the em- 
pire insensibly melted away into the Roman name and 
people. But there still remained, in the centre of every 
province and of every family, an unhappy condition of men 
who endured the weight, without sharing the benefits, of 
society. In the free states of antiquity, the domestic slaves 
were exposed to the wanton rigor of despotism. The per- 
fect settlement of the Roman empire was preceded by ages 
of violence and rapine. The slaves consisted, for the most 
part, of barbarian captives,! taken in thousands by the chance 

43 See Juvenal, Sat, iii. and xv. Ammian. Marcellin. xxii. 1G. 

44 Dion Cassius, l.lxxvii. p. 1275. The lirst instance happened under the reign 
of Septimius Severus. 

4:> See Valerius Maximus, 1. ii. c. 2. n. 2. The emperor Claudius disfranchised 
an eminent Grecian for not understanding Latin. He was probably in some pub- 
lic office, Suetonius in Claud, c. 10.* 

* Causes seem to have been pleaded, even in the senate, in both languages. 
Val. Max. foe. at. Dion. 1. lvii. c 15.— M. 

t It was Ihis which rendered the wars so sanguinary, and the battles so obsti- 
nate. The immortal Robertson, in an excellent discourse on the state of the world 



of war, purchased at a vile price, 46 accustomed to a life of 
independence, and impatient to break and to revenge their 
fetters. Against such internal enemies, whose desperate in- 
surrections had more than once reduced the republic to the 
brink of destruction, 47 the most severe | regulations, 48 and the 

415 In the camp of Lucullus, an ox sold for a drachma, and a slave for four 
drachma?, or about three shillings. Plutarch, in Lucull. p. 580.* 

47 Diodorus Siculus in Eclog. Hist. 1. xxxiv. and xxxvi. Florus, iii. 19, 00. 

48 See a remarkable instance of severity in Cicero in Verrem, v. 3. 

at the period of the establishment of Christianity, has traced a picture of the mel- 
ancholy effects of slavery, in which we rind all the depth of his views and the 
strength of his mind. I shall oppose successively some passages to the reflections of 
Gibbon. The reader will see, not without interest, the truths which Gibbon appears 
to have mistaken or voluntarily neglected, developed by one of the best of modern 
historians. It is important to call them to mind here, in order to establish the 
facts and their consequences with accuracy. I shall more than once have occa- 
sion to employ, for this purpose, the discourse of Robertson. 

" Captives taken in war were, in all probability, the fust persons subjected to 
perpetual servitude; and, when the necessities or luxury of mankind increased 
the demand for slaves, every new war recruited their number, by reducing the 
vanquished to that w r retched condition. Hence proceeded the tierce and desper- 
ate spirit with which wars were carried on among ancient nations. While chains 
and slavery were the certain lot of the conquered, battles were fought, and towns 
defended, with a rage and obstinacy which nothing but horror at such a fate 
could have inspired ; but, by putting an end to the cruel institution of slavery, 
Christianity extended its mild influences to the practice of war, and that barba- 
rous art, softened by its humane spirit, ceased to be so destructive. Secure, in 
every event, of personal- liberty, the resistance of the vanquished became less 
obstinate, and the triumph of the victor was less cruel. Thus humanity was in- 
troduced into the exercise of war, with which it appears to be almost incompati- 
ble ; and it is to the merciful maxims of Christianity, much more than to any 
other cause, that we must ascribe the little ferocity and bloodshed which accom- 
pany modern victories." — G. 

* Above 100,000 prisoners were taken in the Jewish war. — G. Hist, of Jews, iii. 
71. According to a tradition preserved by S. Jerom, after the insurrection in the 
time of Hadrian, they were sold as cheap as horses. Ibid. 124. Compare Blair 
on Roman Slavery, p! 19. — M., and Bureau de la Malle, Economie Politique ties 
Romains, 1. i. c. 15, But I cannot think that this writer has made out his case as 
to tha common price of an agricultural slave being from 2000 to 2500 francs, (80/. 
to 100/.) He has overlooked the passages which show the ordinary prices (i. e. 
Hor. Sat. ii. vii. 45), and argued from extraordinary and exceptional cases. — M. 1845. 

t The followingis the example : we shall see whether the word " severe " is 
here in its place, f 1 * At the time in which L. Domitius was praetor in Sicily, a slave 
killed a wild boar of extraordinary size. The praetor, struck by the dexterity 
and courage of the man, desired to see him. The poor wretch, highly gratified 
with the distinction, came to present himself before the praetor, in hopes, no 
doubt, of praise and reward ; but Domitius, on learning that he had only a jave- 
lin to attack and kill the boar, order-, d him to be instantly crucified, under the 
barbarous pretext that the law prohibited the use of this weapon, as of all others, 
to slaves." Perhaps the cruelty of Domitius is less astonishing than the indif- 
ference with which the Roman orator relates this circumstance, which affects 
him so little that he thus expresses himself: ''Durum hoc vh'.eatur, 
neque ego in ullam partem dispute" " This may appear harsh, nor do Igi\ eany 
opinion on the subject." And it is the same orator who exclaims, in the same 
oration, •' Facinus est, cruciare civem Romanum ; scelus verberare ; prope parri- 
cidium necare : quid dicam in crucem tollere?" "It is a crime to imprison a 
Roman citizen ; wickedness to scourge ; next to parricide to put to death : what 
shall I call it to crucify ? " 

In general, this passage of Gibbon on slavery, is full, not only of blamable in- 
difference, but of an exaggeration of impartiality which resembles dishonesty. 
He endeavors to extenuate all that is appalling in the conditio)) and treatment of 
the slaves ; he would make us consider these cruelties as possibly "justified by 
necessity." He then describes, with minute accuracy, the slightest mitigations 
of their deplorable condition : he attributes to the virtue or tiie policy of the em- 


most cruel treatment, seemed almost justified by the great 
law of self-preservation. But when the principal nations of 
Europe, Asia, and Africa were united under the laws of one 
sovereign, the source of foreign supplies flowed with much 
less abundance, and the Romans were reduced to the milder 
but more tedious method of propagation. * In their numer- 

perors the progressive amelioration in the lot of the slaves ; and he passes over 
in silence the most influential cause, that which, after rendering the slaves less 
miserahle, has contributed at length entirely to enfranchise them from their suf- 
ferings and their chains,— Christianity. Jt would be easy to accumulate the most 
frightful, the most agonizing details, of the manner in which the Romans treated 
their slaves ; whole works have been devoted to the description. I content my- 
self with referring to them. Some reflections of Robertson, taken from the dis- 
course already qtioted, will make us feel that Gibbon, in tracing the mitigation 
of the condition of the slaves, up to a period little later than that which witnessed 
the establishment of Christianity in the world, could not have avoided the ac- 
knowledgment of the influence of that beneficent cause, if he had not already de- 
termined not to speak of it. 

" Upon establishing despotic government in the Roman empire, domestic tyr- 
anny rose, in a short time, to an astonishing height. In that rank soil, every vice 
which power nourishes in the great, or oppression engenders in the mean, thrived 
and grew up apace. * * * It is not the authority of any single detached pre- 
cept in the gospel, but the spirit and genius of the Christian religion, more pow- 
erful than any particular command, which hath abolished the practice of slavery 
throughout the world. The temper which Christianity inspired was mild and 
gentle ; and the doctrines taught added such dignity and lustre to human nature, 
as rescued it from the dishonorable servitude into which it was sunk." 

It is in vain, then, tnat Gibbon pretends to attribute solely to the desire of 
keeping up the number of slaves, the milder conduct which the Komar.s began to 
adopt in their favor at the time of the emperors. This cause had hitherto acted 
in an opposite direction ; how came ii on a sudden to have a different influence? 
(< The masters," lie says, "encouraged the marriage of their slaves; * * * the 
sentiments of nature, the habits of education, contributed to alleviate the hard- 
ships of servitude." The children of slaves were the property of their master, 
who could dispose of or alienate them like the rest of his property. Is it in such 
a situation, with such notions, that the sentiments of nature unfold themselves, 
or habits of education become mild and peaceful? We must not attribute to 
causes inadequate or altogether without force effects which require to explain 
them a reference to more influential causes ; and even if these slighter causes had 
in effect a manifest influence, we must not forget that they are themselves the 
effect of a primary, a higher, and more extensive, which, in giving to the 
mind and to the character a more disinterested and more humane bias, disposed 
men to second or themselves to advance, by their conduct, and by the change of 
manners, the happy results whh h it tended to produce. — G. 

I have retained the whole of M. Guizot's note, though, in his zeal for the in- 
valuable blessings of freedom and Christianity, he has done Gibbon injustice. 
The condition of the slaves was undoubtedly improved under the emperors. What 
a great authority has said, " The condition of a slave is better under an arbitrary 
than under a free government " (Smith's Wealth of Nations, iv. 7), is, I believe, 
supported by the history of all ages and nations. The protecting edicts of Ha- 
drian and the Antoniues are histo. ical facts, and can as little be attributed to the 
influence of Christianity, as the milder language of heathen writers, of Seneca 
(particularly Ep. 47), of Pliny, and of Plutarch. The latter influence of Chris- 
tianity is admitted by Gibbon himself. The subject of Roman slavery has ie- 
cently been investigated with great diligence in a very modest but valuable vol- 
ume, by Wm. Blair, Esq., Edin. 1833. May we be permitted, while on the subject, 
to refer to the mo.vt splendid passage extant of Mr. Pitt's eloquence, the descrip- 
tion of the Roman slave-dealer <>n the shores of Britain, condemning the island 
to irreclaimable barbarism, as a perpetual and prolific nursery of slaves? 
Speeches, vol. ii. p. 80. 

Gibbon ; it should be added, was one of the first and most consistent opponents 
of the African slave-trade. (See Hist. ch. xxv. and letters to Lord Sheffield, Miso- 
Works.)— M. 

* An active slave-trade, which was carried on in many quarters, particularly 
the Euxine, the eastern provinces, the coast of Africa, aiid Britain, must be taken 
into the account. Blair, 23-32. — M. 


ous families, and particularly in their country estates, they 
encouraged the marriage of their slaves.* The sentiments 
of nature, the habits of education, and the possession of a 
dependent species of property, contributed to alleviate the 
hardships of servitude. 49 The existence of a slave became 
an object of greater value, and though his happiness still 
depended on the temper and circumstances of the master, 
the humanity of the latter, instead of being restrained by 
fear, was encouraged by the sense of his own interest. The 
progress of manners was accelerated by the virtue or policy 
of the emperors ; and by the edicts of Hadrian and the An- 
tonines, the protection of the laws w r as extended to the 
most abject part of mankind. The jurisdiction of life and 
death over the slaves, a power long exercised and often 
abused, was taken out of private hands, and reserved to the 
magistrates alone. The subterraneous prisons were abolished ; 
and, upon a just complaint of intolerable treatment, the in- 
jured slave obtained either his deliverance or a less cruel 
master. 50 

Hope, the best comfort of our imperfect condition, was 
not denied to the Roman slave; and if he had any oppor- 
tunity of rendering himself either useful or agreeable, he 
might very naturally expect that the diligence and fidelity 
of a few years would be rewarded with the inestimable gift 
of freedom. The benevolence of the master was so fre- 
quently prompted by the meaner suggestions of vanity and 
avarice, that the laws found it more necessary to restrain 
than to encourage a profuse and undistinguishing liberality, 
which might degenerate into a verv dangerous abuse. 51 It 
was a maxim of ancient jurisprudence, that a slave had not 
any country of his own; he acquired with his liberty an ad- 
mission into the political society of which his patron was a 

•* 9 See in Gruter, and the other collectors, a great number of inscriptions ad- 
dressed by slaves to their wives, children, fellow-servants, masters, &c. They 
are all, most probably, of the Imperial age. 

»° See the Augustaii History, and a Dissertation of M. de Burigny, in the xxxvth 
volume of the Academy of Inscriptions, upon the Roman slaves. 

«" See another Dissertation of M. de Burigny, in the xxxviith volume, on the 
Roman freedaien. 

* The Romans, as well in the first ages of the republic as later, allowed to 
their slaves a kind of marriage, (contubernium ;: notwitbstanding this, luxury 
made a greater number of slaves in demand. Tneinerense in their population was 
not sufficient, and recourse was had to the purchase of slaves, which was made 
even in the provinces of the East subject to the Romans. It is, moreover, known 
that slavery is a state little favorable to population. (See Hume's Essay, and 
Malthas on Population, i. 334. — G.) The testimony of Appiaa (B. C. 1. i. c 7) is 
decisive in favor of the rapid multiplication of the agiicultural ;~laves ; it is oon- 
iirmt'd by the numbers engaged in the servile wars. Compare also Blair, p. 119 ; 
likewise Columella de Re Rust. 1. viii. — M. 


member. The consequences of this maxim would have 
prostituted the privileges of the Roman city to a mean and 
promiscuous multitude. Some seasonable exceptions were 
therefore provided, and the honorable distinction was con- 
fined to such slaves only as, for just causes, and with the 
approbation of the magistrate, should receive a solemn and 
legal manumission. Even these chosen freedmen obtained 
no more than the private rights of citizens, and were rigor- 
ously excluded from civil or military honors. Whatever 
might be the merit or fortune of their sons, they likewise 
were esteemed unworthy of a seat in the senate; nor were 
the traces of a servile origin allowed to be completely oblit- 
erated till the third or fourth generation. - Without de- 
stroying the distinction of ranks, a distant prospect of free- 
dom and honors Avas presented, even to those whom pride 
and prejudice almost disdained to number among the human 

It was once proposed to discriminate the slaves by a pe- 
culiar habit; but it was justly apprehended that there might 
be some danger in acquainting them with their own num- 
bers. 53 Without interpreting, in their utmost strictness, the 
liberal appellations of legions and myriads, 54 we may ven- 
ture to pronounce, that the proportion of slaves, who were 
valued as property, was more considerable than that of ser- 
vants, who can be computed only as an expense. 55 The 
youths of a promising genius were instructed in the arts and 
sciences, and their price was ascertained by the degree of 
their skill and talents. 50 Almost every profession, either 
liberal 57 or mechanical, might be found in the household of 
an opulent senator. The ministers of pomp and sensuality 
were multiplied beyond the conception of modern luxury. 58 
It was more for the interest of the merchant or manufac- 
turer to punha<e, than to hire his workmen; and in the 
country, slaves were employed as the cheapest and most 

52 Spanheim, Orbis Roman. 1. i. c. 1G, p. 124, &c. 

5! Seneca de dementia, 1. i. c. 24. The original is much stronger, " Quantum 
periculum immineret si servi nostri numerare nos eoepissent." 

04 See Pliny (Hist. Natur. 1. xxxiii.) and Athenabus(Deipnosophist. 1. vi. p. 272). 
The latter boldly asserts, that he knew very many (n-a/ji7rjAAoc) Romans who pos- 
sessed, not for use, but ostentation, ten and even twenty thousand slaves. 

65 In Paris there are not more than 43,700 domestics of every sort, and not a 
twelfth part of the inhabitants. Messange, Reoherohes sur la Population, p. 186. 

50 A learned slave sold for many hundred pounds sterling; Atticus always 
bred ami taught them himself. Cornel. Kepos in Vit. c. 13 [on the prices of 
slaves. Blair, 1401.— M. 

5r Many of the Roman physicians were slaves. See Dr. Middleton's Disserta- 
tion and Defence. 

M Their ranks and offices are very copiously enumerated by Pignorius de 


laborious instruments of agriculture. To confirm the gen- 
eral observation, and to display the multitude of slaves, we 
might allege a variety of particular instances. It was dis- 
covered, on a very melancholy occasion, that four hundred 
slaves were maintained in a single palace of Rome. 59 The 
same number of four hundred belonged to an estate which 
an African widow, of a very private condition, resigned to 
her son, whilst she reserved for herself a much larger share 
of her property. 00 A freedman, under the reign of Augus- 
tus, though his fortune had suffered great losses in the civil 
wars, left behind him three thousand six hundred yoke of 
oxen, two hundred and fifty thousand head of smaller cat- 
tle, and what was almost included in the description of cat- 
tle, four thousand one hundred and sixteen slaves. 61 

The number of subjects who acknowledged the laws of 
Rome, of citizens, of provincials, and of slaves, cannot now 
be fixed with such a degree of accuracy as the importance 
of the object would deserve. We are informed that, when 
the Emperor Claudius exercised the office of censor, he 
took an account of six millions nine hundred and forty-five 
thousand Roman citizens, who, with the proportion of 
women and children, must have amounted to about twenty 
millions of souls. The multitude of subjects of an inferior 
rank was uncertain and fluctuating. But, after weighing 
with attention every circumstance which could influence 
the balance, it seems probable that there existed, in the 
time of Claudius, about twice as many provincials as there 
were citizens, of either sex, and of every age ; and that the 
slaves were at least equal in number to the free inhabitants 
of the Roman world. f The total amount of this imperfect 

5° Tacit. Annal. xiv. 43. They were all executed for not preventing their 
master's murder.* 

60 Apuleius in Apolog. p. 548, edit. Delphin. 
6i Plin. Hist. Natur. 1. xxxiii. 47. 

* The remarkable speech of Cassius shows the proud yet apprehensive feelings 
of the Roman aristocracy on this subject. — M. 

t According to Robertson, there were twice as many slaves as free citizens. — 
G. Mr. Blair (p. 15) estimates three slaves to one freeman, between the con- 
quest of Greece, B. C. 14t5, and the reign of Alexander Severus, A. D. 222, 236. 
The proportion was probably larger in Italy than in the provinces.— M. On 
the other hand, Zumpt, in his Dissertation quoted below, asserts it to be a 
" gross error in Gibbon to reckon the number of slave > equal to that of the free 
population. The luxury and magnincence of the great, (he observes,) at the 
commencement of the empire, must not betaken as the groundwork of calcula- 
tions for the whole Roman world. The agricuhural laborer, and the artisan, in 
Spain, Gaul, Britain, Syria, and Egypt, maintained himself, as in the present 
day, by his own labor and that of his household, without possessing a single 
slave.'*' The latter part of my note was intended to suggest this consideration. 
Yet so completely was slavery rooted in the tocial system, both in the east and 


calculation would rise to about one hundred and twenty 
millions of persons ; a degree of population which possibly 
exceeds that of modern Europe, 52 and forms the most lili- 
es Compute twenty millions in France, twenty-two in Germany, four in Hun- 
gary, ten in Italy with its islands, eight in Great Britain and Ireland, eight in 
Spain and Portugal, ten or twelve in the European Russia, six in Poland, six in 
Greece and Turkey, four in Sweden, three in Denmark and Norway, four in the 
Low Countries. The whole would amount to one hundred and rive, or one hun- 
dred and seven millions. See Voltaire, de l'Histoire Generate-* 

the west, that, in the great diffusion of wealth at this time, every one. I. doubt 
not, who could alTord a domestic slave, kept one ; and generally, the number of 
slaves was in proportion to the wealth. I do not believe that the cultivation of 
the soil by slaves was confined to Italy ; the holders of large estates in the prov- 
inces would probably, either from choice or necessity, adopt the same mode of 
cultivation. The latifundia, says Pliny, had ruined Italy, and had began to ruin 
the provinces. Slaves were no doubt employed in agricultural labor to a jreat 
extent in Sicily, and were the estates of those six enormous landholders who were 
said to have possessed the whole province of Africa, cultivated altogether by 
free coloni? 'Whatever may have been the < ase in the rural districts, in Ihe 
towns and cities the household duties were almost entirely discharged by slaves, 
and vast numbers belonged to the public establishments. I do not, however, 
differ so far from Zumpt, and from M. Dureau de la Malle, as to adopt the 
higher and bolder estimate of Robertson and Mr. Blair, rather than the more 
cautious suggestions of Gibbon. I would reduce rather than increase the pro- 
portion of the slave population. The very ingenious and elaborate calculations 
of the French writer, by which he deduces. the amount of the population from 
the produce and consumption of corn in Italy, appear to me neither precise nor 
satisfactory bases for such complicated political arithmetic. I am least satisfied 
with his views as to the population of the city of Home ; but this point will be 
more fitly reserved for a note on the thirty-first chapter of Gibbon. The work, 
however, of M. Dureau de la Malle is very curious and full on some of the 
minuter points of Roman statistics. — M. 1845. 

* The present population of Europe is estimated at 227,700,000. Malte Brun, 
Geogr. Trans, edit. 1832. See details in the different voluntas. Another author- 
ity, (Alnvmach de Gbtha,) quoted in a recent English publication, gives the fol- 
lowing details : — 

France, 32,897,521 

Germany, (including Hungary, Prussian and Austrian Poland,) 56,136,213 

Italy 20,548,616 

Great Biitain and Ireland, 24,062,947 

Spain and Portugal { ^ JJjJ'ooo 

Russia, including Poland, 44,220,600 

Cracow, 128,480 

Turkey, (including Pachalic of Dschesair,) 9,545,300 

Greece 637,700 

Ionian Islands 208,100 

Sweden and Norway, 3,914,963 

Denmark, 2,012,998 

Belgium, 3,533,538 

Holland, 2,444,550 

Switzerland, 1,985,000 

Total, 219,374,485 
— M. 

Since the publication of my first annotated edition of Gibbon, the subject of 
the population of the Roman empire has been investigated by two writers of 
great industry and learning ; Mons. Dureau de la Malle, in his Economie Pol- 
itique des Romania, liv. ii. c. 1 to 8, and M. Zumpt, in a dissertation printed in 
the Transactions of the Berlin Academy, 1840. M. Dureau c]e la Malle confines 
his inquiry almost entirely to the city of Rome, and Roman Italy. Zumpt ex- 
amines at greater length the axiom, which he supposes to hive been assumed by 
Gibbon as unquestionable, "that Italy and the Roman world was never so pop- 
ulous as iu the time of the Antoniues." Though this probably was Gibbon's 
opinion, lie has not stated it so peremptorily as asserted by M. Zumpt. It had 


merous society that has ever been united under tne same 
system of government. 

Domestic peace and union were the natural consequences 
of the moderate and comprehensive policy embraced by the 
Romans. If we turn our eyes towards the monarchies of 
Asia, we shall behold despotism in the centre, and weakness 
in the extremities ; the collection of the revenue, or the ad- 
ministration of justice, enforced by the presence of an 
army ; hostile barbarians established in the heart of the 
country, hereditary satraps usurping the dominion of the 
provinces, and subjects inclined to rebellion, though inca- 
pable of freedom. But the obedience of the Roman world 
was uniform, voluntary, and permanent. The vanquished 
nations, blended into one great people, resigned the hope, 
nay, even the wish, of resuming their independence, and 
scarcely considered their own existence as distinct from the 
existence of Rome. The established authority of the em- 
perors pervaded without an effort the wide extent of their 
dominions, and was exercised with the same facility on the 
banks of the Thames, or of the Nile, as on those of the 
Tiber. The legions were destined to serve against the pub- 
lic enemy, and the civil magistrate seldom required the 
aid of a military force. 03 In this state of general security, 
the leisure, as well as opulence, both of the prince and 
people, were devoted to improve and to adorn the Roman 

C3 Joseph, de Bell. Judaieo, 1. ii. c. 16, The oration of Agrippa, or rather of 
the historian, is a line picture of the Roman empire. 

before been expressly laid down by Hume, and his statement was controverted 
by Wallace and by Malthus. Gibbon says (p. f)7) that there is no reason to be- 
lieve the country (of Italy) less populous in the age of the Antonines, than in that 
of Romulus; and Zumpt acknowledges that we have r.o satisfactory knowledge 
of the state of Italy at that early age. Zumpt, in my opinion with some reason, 
takes the period just before the first Punic war as that in which Roman Italy 
(all south of the Rubicon) was most populous. From that time, the numbers be- 
ran to diminish, at first from the enormous waste of life out of the free popula- 
tion in the foreign, and afterwards in the civil, wars; from the cultivation of the 
soil by slaves ; towards the close of the republic, from the repugnance to mar- 
riage," which resisted alike the dread of legal punishment and the offer of legal 
immunity and privilege ; and from the depravity of manners, which interfered 
with the* procreation," the birth, and the rearing of children. The arguments 
and the authorities of Zumpt are equally conclusive as to the decline of popula- 
tion in Greece. Still the details, which he himself adduces as to the prosperity 
and populousness of Asia Minor, and the whole of the Roman East, with the 
advancement of the European provinces, especially Gaul, Spain, and Britain, 
in civilization, and therefore in populousness, (for I lave no confidence in the 
vast numbers sometimes assigned to the barbarous inhabitants of these coun- 
tries) may, I think, fairly compensate for any deduction to be made from Gib- 
bon's general estimate on account of Greece and Italy. Gibbon himself ac- 
knowledges his own estimate to be vague and conjectural ; and 1 may venture 
to recommend the dissertation of Zumpt, as deserving respectful consideration. 
— M. 1845. 


Among the innumerable monuments of architecture con- 
structed by the Romans, how many have escaped the notice 
of history, how few have resisted the ravages of time and 
barbarism ! And yet, even the majestic ruins that are still 
scattered over Italy and the provinces would be sufficient 
to prove that those countries were once the seat of a polite 
and powerful empire. Their greatness alone, or their 
beauty, might deserve our attention ; but they are rendered 
more interesting by two important circumstances, which 
connect the agreeable history of the arts with the more use- 
ful history of human manners. Many of those works were 
erected at private expense, and almost all were intended 
for public benefit. 

It is natural to suppose that the greatest number, as well 
as the most considerable, of the Roman edifices were raised 
by the emperors, who possessed so unbounded a command 
both of men and money. Augustus was accustomed to 
boast that he had found his capital of brick, and that he 
had left it of marble. 04 The strict economy of Vespasian 
was the source of his magnificence. The works of Trajan 
bear the stamp of his genius. The public monuments with 
which Hadrian adorned every province of the empire were 
executed not only by his orders, but under his immediate 
inspection. He was himself an artist ; and he loved the 
arts, as they conduced to the glory of the monarch. They 
were encouraged by the Antonines, as they contributed to 
the happiness of the people. But if the emperors were the 
first, they were not the only architects of their dominions. 
Their example was universally imitated by their principal 
subjects, who were not afraid of declaring to the world that 
they had spirit to conceive, and wealth to accomplish, the 
noblest undertakings. Scarcely had the proud structure of 
the Coliseum been dedicated at Rome, before the edifices, 
of a smaller scale indeed, but of the same design and ma- 
terials, were erected for the use, and at the expense, of the 
cities of Capua and Verona. 05 The inscription of the stu- 
pendous bridge of Alcantara attests that it was thrown over 
the Tagus by tile contribution of a few Lusitanian com- 
munities. When Pliny was intrusted with the government 

04 Sueton. in August, c. 28. Augustus built in Rome the temple and forum of 
Mars the Avenger ; the temple of Jupiter Tonans i:i the Capitol ; that of Apollo 
Palatine, with public: libraries ; the portico and basilica of ( ains and Lncius; 
tlu porticos of Li via and Octavia.; and the theatre of Marcel! us. The example 
of the sovereign was imitated by his ministers and generals ; and his Uiend 
Agrippa left behind him the immortal monument of the Pantheon. 

• See Mallei, Verona illustrata, 1. iv. p. 68. 


of Bithynia and Pontus, provinces by no means the richest 
or most considerable of the empire, he found the cities with- 
in his jurisdiction striving with each other in every useful 
and ornamental work, that might deserve the curiosity of 
strangers, or the gratitude of their citizens. It was the 
duty of the proconsul to supply their deficiencies, to direct 
their taste, and sometimes to moderate their emulation. 06 
The opulent senators of Rome and the provinces esteemed 
it an honor, and almost an obligation, to adorn the splendor 
of their age and country ; and the influence of fashion very 
frequently supplied the want of taste or generosity. Among 
a crowd of these private benefactors, we may select Herodes 
Attic-us, an Athenian citizen, who lived in the age of the 
Antonines. Whatever might be the motive of his conduct, 
his magnificence would have been worthy of the greatest 

The family of Herod, at least after it had been favored 
by fortune, was lineally descended from Cimon and Miltia- 
des, Theseus and Cecrops, iEacus and Jupiter. But the pos- 
terity of so many gods and heroes was fallen into the most 
abject state. His grandfather had suffered by the hands of 
justice, and Julius Atticus, his father, must have ended his 
life in poverty and contempt, had he not discovered an im- 
mense treasure buried under an old house, the last remains 
of his patrimony. According to the rigor of the law, the 
emperor might have asserted his claim, and the prudent At- 
ticus prevented, by a frank confession, the officiousness of 
informers. But the equitable Nerva, who then filled the 
throne, refused to accept any part, of it, and commanded 
him to use, without scruple, the present of fortune. The 
cautious Athenian still insisted, that the treasure was too 
considerable for a subject, and that he knew not how to use it. 
Abuse it then, replied the monarch, with a good-natured 
peevishness ; for it is your own. 67 Many will be of opinion, 
that Atticus literally obeyed the emperor's last instructions; 
since he expended the greatest part of his fortune, which 
was increased by an advantageous marriage, in the service 
of the public. He had obtained for his son Herod the pre- 

06 See the xth book of Pliny's Epistles. He mentions the following works 
carried on at the expense of the cities. At Niconudia, a new forum, an aque- 
duct, and a canal, left unfinished by a king ; at Nice, a gymnasium, and a thea- 
tre, which had already cost near ninety thousand pounds ; baths at Prusa and 
Claudiopolis, and an aqueduct of sixteen miles in length for the use of Sinope. 

" 7 Hadrian afterwards made a very equitable regulation, which divided all 
treasure-trove between the right of property and that of discovery. Hist 
August, p. 9. 


fecture of the free cities of Asia ; and the young magistrate, 
observing that the town of Troas was indifferently supplied 
with water, obtained from the munificence of Hadrian 
three hundred myriads of drachms (about a hundred thou- 
sand pounds), for the construction of a new aqueduct. But 
in the execution of the Avork the charge amounted to more 
than double the estimate, and the officers of the revenue be- 
gan to murmur, till the generous Atticus silenced their com- 
plaints by requesting that he might be permitted to take 
upon himself the whole additional expense. 68 

The ablest preceptors of Greece and Asia had been in- 
vited by liberal rewards to direct the education of young 
Herod. Their pupil soon became a celebrated orator, ac- 
cording to the useless rhetoric of that age, which, confining 
itself to the schools, disdained to visit either the Forum or 
the Senate. He was honored with the consulship at Rome : 
but the greatest part of his life was spent in a philosophic 
retirement at Athens, and his adjacent villas; perpetually 
surrounded by sophists, who acknowledged, without reluc- 
tance, the superiority of a rich and generous rival. 69 The 
monuments of his genius have perished ; some considerable 
ruins still preserve the fame of his taste and munificence: 
modern travellers have measured the remains of the stadium 
which he constructed at Athens. It was six hundred feet 
in length, built entirely of white marble, capable of admit- 
ting the whole body of the people, and finished in four years, 
whilst Herod was president of the Athenian games. To the 
memory of his wife Regilla he dedicated a theatre, scarcely 
to be paralleled in the empire : no wood except cedar, very 
curiously carved, was employed in any part of the building. 
The Odeum,* designed by Pericles for musical performances, 
and the rehearsal of new tragedies, had been atrophy of the 
victory of the arts over barbaric greatness ; as the timbers 
employed in the construction consisted chiefly of the masts 
of the Persian vessels. Notwithstanding the repairs be- 
stowed on that ancient edifice by a king of Cappadocia, it 
was again fallen to decay. Herod restored its ancient beauty 

68 Philostrat. in Yit. Sophist. 1. ii. p. 548. 

69 Aulus Gellius, in Noct. Attic, i. 2, ix. 2, xviii. 10, xix. 12. Philostrat. p. 564. 

* The Odeum served for the rehearsal of new comedies as well as tragedies ; 
they were read or repeated, before representation, without music or decorations, 
&c. No piece could be represented in the theatre if it had not been previously- 
approved by judges for this purpose. The king of Cappadocia who restored the 
Odeum, which had been burnt by Syllu, was Araobarzanes. See Martini, Dis- 
sertation on the Odeons of the Ancients. Leipsic, 17G7, p. 10-91.— W- 


and magnificence. ISTor was the liberality of that illustrious 
citizen confined to the walls of Athens. The most splendid 
ornaments bestowed on the temple of Neptune in the Isth- 
mus, a theatre at Corinth, a stadium at Delphi, a bath at 
Thermopylae, and an aqueduct at Canusium in Italy were in- 
sufficient to exhaust his treasures. The people of Epirus, 
Thessaly, Eubcea, Boeotia, and Peloponnesus, experienced 
his favors ; and many inscriptions of the cities of Greece 
and Asia gratefully style Herodes Atticus their patron and 
benefactor. 70 

In the commonwealths of Athens and Rome, the modest 
simplicity of private houses announced the equal condition 
of freedom ; whilst the sovereignty of the people was rep- 
resented in the majestic edifices designed to the public 
use ; 71 nor was this republican spirit totally extinguished by 
the introduction of wealth and monarchy. It was in works 
of national honor and benefit that the most virtuous of the 
emperors affected to display their magnificence. The gold- 
en palace of Nero excited a just indignation, but the vast 
extent of ground which had been usurped by his selfish lux- 
ury was more nobly filled under the succeeding reigns by 
the Coliseum, the baths of Titus, the Claudian portico, and 
the temples dedicated to the goddess of Peace, and to the 
genius of Rome. 72 These monuments of architecture, the 
property of the Roman people, were adorned with the most 
beautiful productions of Grecian painting and sculpture ; 
and in the temple of Peace a very curious library was open 
to the curiosity of the learned.* At a small distance from 
thence was situated the Forum of Trajan. It was sur- 
rounded by a lofty portico in the form of a quadrangle, into 
which four triumphal arches opened a noble and spacious 
entrance : in the centre arose a column of marble, whose 

7° See Philostrat. 1. ii. p. 548, 5G0. Pausanias, 1. i. and yii. 10. The life of 
Herodes, in the xxxth volume of the Memoirs of the Academy of Inscriptions. 

71 It is particularly remarked of Athens by Dica^archus, de Stat. Graecise, p. 
8, inter Geographos Minores, edit. Hudson. 

72 Donatus de Roma Vetere, 1. iii. c. 4, 5, 6. Nardini Roma Antica. 1. iii. II, 
12, 13, and a MS. description of ancient Rome, hy Bernardus Oricellarius, or 
Rucellai, of which I obtained a copy from the library of the Canon Ricardi at 
Florence. Two celebrated pictures of Timanthes and of Protogenes are men- 
tioned by Pliny, as in the Temple of Peace ; and the Laocoon was found in the 
baths of* Titus." 

* The Emperor Vespasian, who had caused the Temple of Peace to be built, 
transported to it the greatest part of the pictures, statues, and other works of art 
which had escaped the civil tumults. It was there that every day the artists and 
the learned of Rome assembled : and it is on the site of this temple that a mul- 
titude of antiques have been dug up. See notes of Reimar on Dion Cassius, 
Levi. c. 15, p. 1083— W. 


height, of one hundred and ten feet, denoted the elevation 
of the hill that had been cut away. This column, which 
still subsists in its ancient beauty, exhibited an exact repre- 
sentation of the Dacian victories of its founder. The vet- 
eran soldier contemplated the story of his own campaigns, 
and by an easy illusion of national vanity, the peaceful cit- 
izen associated himself to the honors of the triumph. All 
the other quarters of the capital, and all the provinces of 
the empire, were embellished by the same liberal spirit of 
public magnificence, and were filled with amphitheatres, 
theatres, temples, porticos, triumphal arches, baths and 
aqueducts, all variously conducive to the health, the devo- 
tion, and the pleasures of the meanest citizen. The last 
mentioned of those edifices deserve our peculiar attention. 
The boldness of the enterprise, the solidity of the execution, 
and the uses to which they were subservient, rank the aque- 
ducts among the noblest monuments of Roman genius and 
power. The aqueducts of the capital claim a just preemi- 
nence ; but the curious traveller, who, without the light of 
history, should examine those of Spoleto, of Metz, or of 
Segovia, would very naturally conclude that those provincial 
towns had formerly been the residence of some potent mon- 
arch. The solitudes of Asia and Africa were once covered 
with flourishing cities, whose populousness, and even whose 
existence, was derived from such artificial supplies of a per- 
ennial stream of fresh water. 73 

We have computed the inhabitants, and contemplated 
the public works, of the Roman empire. The observation 
of the number and greatness of its cities will serve to con- 
firm the former, and to multiply the latter. It may not be 
unpleasing to collect a few scattered instances relative to 
that subject, without forgetting, however, that from the van- 
ity of nations and the poverty of language, the vague ap- 
pellation of city has been indifferently bestowed on Rome 
and upon Laurentum. 

I. Ancient Italy is said to have contained eleven hundred 
and ninety-seven cities ; and for whatsoever aera of an- 
tiquity the expression might be intended, 74 there is not 
any reason to believe the country less populous in the 
age of the Antonines, than in that of Romulus. The petty 
states of Latin m were contained within the metropolis 

73 Montfaucon l'Antiquite Expliquee, torn. iv. p. 2, 1. i. c. 9. Fabretti has com- 
posed a very learned treatise on the aqueducts of Rome. 

M iElian. Hist. Van lib. ix. c. 1G. He lived in the time of Alexander Severus. 
See Fabricius, Biblioth. Grseca, 1- iv. c. 21. 


of the empire, by whose superior influence they had been 
attracted.* Those parts of Italy which have so long 
languished under the lazy tyranny of priests and viceroys 
had been afflicted only by the more tolerable calami- 
ties of war ; and the first symptoms of decay, which 
they experienced, were amply compensated by the rapid 
improvements of the Cisalpine Gaul. The splendor of Ve- 
rona may be traced in its remains : yet Verona was less 
celebrated than Aqnileia or Padua, Milan or Ravenna. II. 
The spirit of improvement had passed the Alps, and been 
felt even in the woods of Britain, which were gradually 
cleared away to open a free space for convenient and ele- 
gant habitations. York was the seat of government; Lon- 
don was already enriched by commerce; and Bath was cel- 
ebrated for the salutary effects of its medicinal waters. 
Gaul could boast of her twelve hundred cities ; 75 and though, 
in the northern parts, many of them, without excepting 
Paris itself, were little more than the rude and imperfect 
townships of a rising people, the southern provinces imi- 
tated the wealth and elegance of Italy. 76 Many were the 
cities of Gaul, Marseilles, Aries, Nismes, Narbonne, Thou- 
louse, Bourdeaux, Autun, Vienna, Lyons, Langres, and 
Treves, whose ancient condition might sustain an equal, and 
perhaps advantageous comparison with their present state. 
With regard to Spain, that country flourished as a province, 
and has declined as a kingdom. Exhausted by the abuse of 
her strength, by America, and by superstition, her pride 
might possibly be confounded, if we required such a list of 
three hundrea and sixty cities, as Pliny has exhibited under 
the reign of Vespasian. 77 III. Three hundred African 

75 Joseph, de Bell. Jud. ii. 16. The number, however, is mentioned, and 
should be received with a degree of latitude.! 

'*» Plin. Hist. Natur. iii- 5. 

77 Plin. Hist. Natur. iii. 3, 4, iv. 35. The list seems authentic and accurate : 
the division of the provinces, and the different condition of the cities, are 
minutely distinguished. 

* This may in some degree account for the difficulty started by Livy, as to the 
incredibly numerous armies raised by the small states around Rome, where, in 
his time, a scanty stock of free soldiers among a larger population of Roman 
slaves broke the solitude. Vix seminario exiguo militum relicto, servUia Romana 
ab solitudine vindicant, Liv. vi. vii. Compare Appian Bel. Civ. i. 7. — M. subst. 

t Without doubt no reliance can be placed on this passage of Joseph us. The 
historian makes Ag: ippa give advice to the Jews, as to the power of the Romans ; 
and the speech js full of declamation which can furnish no conclusions to his- 
tory. While enumerating the nations subject to the Romans, he speaks of the 
Gauls as submitting to 1200 soldiers, (which is false, as there were eight legions 
in Gaul, Tac. iv. 5,) while there are nearly twelve hundred cities.— G. Josephus 
(irifra) plaee9 these eight legions on the Rhine, as Tacitus does. — M. 


cities had once acknowledged the authority of Carthage, 78 
nor is it likely that their numbers diminished under the ad- 
ministration of the emperors: Carthage itself rose with 
new splendor from its ashes ; and that capital, as well as 
Capua and Corinth, soon recovered all the advantages 
which can be separated from independent sovereignty. IV. 
The provinces of the East present the contrast of Roman 
magnificence with Turkish barbarism. The ruins of anti- 
quity scattered over uncultivated fields, and ascribed, by ig- 
norance, to the power of magic, scarcely afford a shelter to 
the oppressed peasant or wandering Arab. Under the 
reign of the Caesars, the proper Asia alone contained five 
hundred populous cities, 79 enriched with all the gifts of 
nature, and adorned with. all the refinements of art. Eleven 
cities of Asia had once disputed the honor of dedicating a 
temple to Tiberius, and their respective merits were exam- 
ined by the senate. 80 Four of them were immediately re- 
jected as unequal to the burden ; and among these was 
Laodicea, whose splendor is still displayed in its ruins.* 1 
Laodicea collected a very considerable revenue from its 
flocks of sheep, celebrated for the fineness of their wool, 
and had received, a little before the contest, a legacy of 
above four hundred thousand pounds, by the testament of a 
generous citizen. 8 ' 2 If such was the poverty of Laodicea, 
what must have been the wealth of those cities, whose claim 
appeared preferable, and particularly of Pergamus, of 
Smyrna, and of Ephesus, who so long disputed with each 
other the titular primacy of Asia? t3 The capitals of Syria 
and Egypt held a still superior rank in the empire; Antioch 
and Alexandria looked down with disdain on a crowd of 
dependent cities, 84 and yielded, with reluctance, to the 
majesty of Rome itself. 

78 Strabon. Geograph. 1. xvii. p. 1189. 

•° Joseph, de Bell. Jud. ii. 16, Philostrat in Vit. Sophist, l. ii. p. 548, edit. 

w Tacit. Aimal. iv. 55. I have taken some pains in consulting and comparing 
modern travellers, with regard to the fate of those eleven cities of Asia. Seven 
or eight are totally destroyed : Ilyprepe, Tralles, Laodicea, Ilium, Halkarnassus, 
Miletus, Ephesus, and we may add Sanies. Of the remaining three, Pergamus 
is a straggling village of two or three thousand inhabitants; Magnesia, under 
the name of Guzelhissar, a town of some consequence ; and Smyrna, a great 
city, peopled by a hundred thousand souls. But even at Smyrna, while the 
Franks have maintained commerce, the Turks have ruined the arts. 

bl See a very exact and pleasing description of the ruins of Laodicea, in 
Chandler's Travels through Asia Minor, p. 225, &c. 

82 strabo, 1, xii. p. 8G6. He had studied at Tralles. 

83 See a Dissertation of M. de Boze, Mem. de l'Academie, torn, xviii. Aris- 
tides pronounced an oration, which is still extant, to recommend concord to the 
rival cities. 

84 The inhabitants of Egypt, exclusive of Alexandria, amounted to seven mil- 


All these cities were connected with each other, and witb 
the capital, by the public highways, which, issuing from the 
Forum of Rome, traversed Italy, pervaded the provinces, 
and were terminated only by the frontiers of the empire. 
If we carefully trace the distance from the wall of Antoninus 
to Rome, and from thence to Jerusalem, it will be found 
that the great chain of communication, from the north-west 
to the south-east point of the empire, was drawn out to the 
length of four thousand and eighty Roman miles. 85 The 
public roads were accurately divided by mile-stones, and ran 
in a direct line from one city to another, with very little 
respect for the obstacles either of nature or private property. 
Mountains were perforated, and bold arches thrown over 
the broadest and most rapid streams. 86 The middle part of 
the road was raised into a terrace which commanded the 
adjacent country, consisted of several strata of sand, gravel, 
and cement, and was paved with large stones, or, in some 
places near the capital, with granite. 87 Such was the solid 
construction of the Roman highways, whose firmness has 
not entirely yielded to the effort of fifteen centuries. They 
united the subjects of the most distant provinces by an easy 
and familiar intercourse ; but their primary object had been 
to facilitate the marches of the legions ; nor was any country 
considered as completely subdued, till it had been rendered, 
in all its parts, pervious to the arms and authority of the 
conqueror. The advantage of receiving the earliest intelli- 
gence, and of conveying their orders with celerity, induced 
the emperors to establish, throughout their extensive domin- 
ions, the regular institution of ^osts. 88 Houses were every- 
where erected at the distance only of five or six miles ; each 
of them was constantly provided with forty horses, and by 
the help of these relays, it was easy to travel a hundred 

lions and a half (Joseph, de Bell. Jud. ii. 16). Under the military govern- 
ment of the Mamelukes, Syria was supposed to contain sixty thousand villages, 
(Histoire de Timur Bee, 1. v. c. 20.) 

Si The following Itinerary may serve to convey some idea of the direction of 
the road, and of the distance between the principal towns. I. From the wall of 
Antoninus to York, 222 Roman miles. II. London, 2_'7. III. Rhutupiaj o ■ Sand- 
wich, 07. IV. The navigation to Boulogne, 45. V. Rheims, 174. VI. Lvons. 330. 
VII. Milan, 324. VIII. Home, 426. IX. Brundisium, 360. X. The navigation 
to Dyriachium, 40. XI. Byzantium, 711. XII. Anovra, 283. XIII. Tarsus. 301. 
XIV. Antioch, 141. XV. Tyre, 252. XVI. Jerusalem, 168. In all 4080 Roman, 
or 3740 English miles. See the Itineraries published by Wesseling, his annota- 
tions ; Gale and Stukeley for Britain, and M. d'Anville for Gaul and Italy. 

86 Montfaucon, 1' Antiquity Expliquee (torn. 4, p. 2, 1. i. c. 5) has described the 
bridges of Narni, Alcantara, Nismes. &e. 

8; Bergier, Histoire des grands Chemiris de l'Empire Romain, 1. ii. s. 1-28. 

83 Procopius in Hist. Arcana, c. 30. Bergier, Hist, des grands Chemins, 1. iv. 
Codex Theodosian. 1. viii. tit. v. vol. ii. p. 506-563, with Godefroy's learned com« 


miles in a day along the Roman roads. 89 # The use of the 
posts was allowed to those who claimed it by an Imperial 
mandate ; but though originally intended for the public ser- 
vice, it was sometimes indulged to the business or con- 
veniency of private citizens. 90 Nor was the communication 
of the Roman empire less free and open by sea than it was 
by land. The provinces surrounded and enclosed the Med- 
iterranean : and Italy, in the shape of an immense promon- 
tory, advanced into the midst of that great lake. The coasts 
of Italy are, in general, destitute of safe harbors ; but human 
industry had corrected the deficiencies of nature; and the 
artificial port of Ostir, in particular, situate at the mouth of 
the Tiber, and formed by the emperor Claudius, was a use- 
ful monument of Roman greatness. 91 From this port, which 
was only sixteen miles from the capital, a favorable breeze 
frequently carried vessels in seven days to the columns of 
Hercules, and in nine or ten, to Alexandria in Egypt. 92 

Whatever evils either reason or declamation have im- 
puted to extensive empire, the power of Rome was attended 
with some beneficial consequences to mankind ; and the 
same freedom cf intercourse which extended the vices, dif- 
fused likewise the improvements, of social life. In the more 
remote ages of antiquity, the world was unequally divided. 
The East was in the immemorial possession of arts and lux- 
ury; whilst the West was inhabited by rude and warlike 
barbarians, who either disdained agriculture, or to whom it 
was totally unknown. Under the protection of an estab- 
lished government, the productions of happier climates, and 

89 In the time of Theodosius, Ccesarius, a magistrate of high rank, went post 
from Antioch to Constantinople. He began his journey at night, was in Cappa- 
docia (165 miles from Antioch) the ensuing evening, and arrived at Constantino- 
ple the sixth day about noon. The whole distance was 725 Roman, or 665 English 
miles. See Libanius, Orat. xxii., and the Itiueraria, p. 572-581. t 

w Pliny, though a favorite .and a minister, made an apology for granting post- 
horses to his wife on the most urgent business. Epist. x. 121, 122. 

91 Bergier, Hist, des grands Chemins. 1. iv. c. 49. 

«>2 riin. Hist. Natur. xix. i. [In Procem.] % 

* Posts for the conveyance of intelligence were established by Augustus. Suet. 
Aug. 49. The couriers travelled with amazing speed. Blair on Roman Slavery, 
note, p. 261. It is probal le thab the posts, from the time of Augustus, were con- 
fined to the public service, and supplied by impressment. Nerva, as it appears 
from a coin of his reign, made an important change ; " he established posts upon 
all the public roads of Italy, and made the service chargeable upon his own ex- 
chequer. * * Hadrian, perceiving the advantage of this improvement, ex- 
tended it to all the provinces of the empire." Cardwell on Coins, p. 220. — M. 

t A courier is mentioned in Walpole's Travels, ii. 335, who was to travel from 
Aleppo to Constantinople, more than 700 miles, in eight days, an unusually short 
journey. — M. 

t Pliny says Puteoli, which seems to have been the usual landing-place from 
the East. See the voyages of St. Paul, Acts, xxviii. 13, and of Josephus, Vita, c. 
3.— M. 


the industry of more civilized nations, were gradually intro- 
duced into the western countries of Europe ; and the natives 
were encouraged, by an open and profitable commerce, to 
multiply the former, as well as to improve the latter. It 
would be almost impossible to enumerate all the articles, 
either of the animal or the vegetable reign, which were suc- 
cessively imported into Europe from Asia and Egypt: 93 but 
it will not be unworthy of the dignity, and much less of the 
utility, of an historical work, slightly to touch on a few of 
the principal heads. 1. Almost all the flowers, the herbs, 
and the fruits, that grow in our European gardens, are of 
foreign extraction, which, in many cases, is betrayed even 
by their names : the apple was a native of Italy, and when 
the Romans had tasted the richer flavor of the apricot, the 
peach, the pomegranate, the citron, and the orange, they 
contented themselves with applying to all these new fruits 
the common denomination of apple, discriminating them 
from each other by the additional epithet of their country. 
2. In the time of Homer, the vine grew wild in the island of 
Sicily, and most probably in the adjacent continent ; but it 
was not improved by the skill, nor did it afford a liquor 
grateful to the taste, of the savage inhabitants. 94 A thou- 
sand years afterwards, Italy could boast that, of the four- 
score most generous and celebrated wines, more than two- 
thirds were produced from her soil. 95 The blessing was 
soon communicated to the Narbonnese province of Gaul ; 
but so intense was the cold to the ncrth of the Cevennes, that, 
in the time of Strabo, it was thought impossible to ripen the 
grapes in those parts of Gaul. 96 This difficulty, however, 
was gradually vanquished; and there is some reason to be- 
lieve that the vineyards of Burgundy are as old as the age 

93 It is not improbable that the Greeks and Phoenicians introduced some new 
arts and productions into the neighborhood of Marseilles and Gades. 

'•* See Homer, Odvss. 1. ix. v. 358. 

°5Plin. Nat'ur. 1. xiv. 

96 Strab. Geograph. 1. iv. p. 269. The intense cold of a Gallic winter was al- 
most proverbial among the ancients.* 

* Strabo only says that the grape does not ripen, 17 aniTreXo? ov paSiaxr tcAco? 
tf>ope\. Attempts had been made in the time of Augustus to naturalize the vine 
in the north of Gaul ; but the cold was too great. Diod. Sic. edit. Phodom. p. 
304.— W. Diodorus (lib. v. 20) gives a curious picture of the Italian traders bar- 
tering, with the savages oi Gaul, a cask of wine for a slave. — M. 

It appears from tlie newly discovered treatise of Cicero de Republica, that 
there was a law of the republic prohibiting the culture of the vine and olive be- 
yond the Alps, in order to keep up the value of those in Italy. Nos justissiml 
homines, qui transalpinas gentes oleam et vitem serere 11011 sinimus, quo pluris 
sint nostra oliveta nostraeque vineae. Lib. iii. 9. The restrictive law of Domitian 
was veiled under the decent pretext of encouraging the cultivation of grain. 
Suet. Dom. vii. It was repealed by Probus. Vopis. Probus, 18.— M. 


of the Antonines. 97 3. The olive, in the western world, fol- 
lowed the progress of peace, of which it was considered as 
the symbol. Two centuries after the foundation of Rome, 
both Italy and Africa were strangers to that useful plant : 
it was naturalized in those countries ; and at length carried 
into the heart of Spain and Gaul. The timid errors of the 
ancients, that it required a certain degree of heat, and could 
only flourish in the neighborhood of the sea, were insensibly 
exploded by industry and experience. 98 4. The cultivation 
of flax was transported from Egypt to Gaul, and enriched 
the whole country, however it might impoverish the particu- 
lar lands on which it was sown. 99 5. The use of artificial 
grasses became familiar to the farmers both of Italy and the 
provinces, particularly the Lucerne, which derived its name 
and origin from Media. 100 The assured supply of wholesome 
and plentiful food for the cattle during winter multiplied 
the number of the flocks and herds, which in their turn con- 
tributed to the fertility of the soil. To all these improve- 
ments may be added an assiduous attention to mines and 
fisheries, which, by employing a multitude of laborious 
hands, serve to increase the^ pleasures of the rich and the 
subsistence of the poor. The elegant treatise of Columella 
describes the advanced state of the Spanish husbandry 
under the reign of Tiberius ; and it may be observed, that 
those famines, which so frequently afflicted the infant repub- 
lic, were seldom or never experienced by the extensive em- 
pire of Rome. The accidental scarcity, in any single prov- 
ince, was immediately relieved by the plenty of its more 
fortunate neighbors. 

Agriculture is the foundation of manufactures ; since 
the productions of nature are the materials of art. Under 
the Roman empire, the labor of an industrious and ingenious 
people was variously, but incessantly, employed in the service 

w In the beginning of the fourth century, the orator Eumenius (Panegyr. Ve- 
ter. viii. G, edit. Delphin.) speaks of the vines in the territory of Autun, which 
were decayed through age, and the first plantation of which was totally unknown. 
The Pagus Arebrignus is supposed by M. d'Anville to be the district of Beaune, 
celebrated, even at pres< nr, for one of the first growths of Burgundy.* 

9« Plin. Hist. Natur. 1. xv. 

*>Plin. Hist. Natur. 1. xix. 

1(XJ See the agreeable Essays on Agriculture by Mr. Harte, in which he has 
collected all that the ancients and moderns have said of Lucerne. 

_ * This is proved by a passage of Pliny, the Elder, where he speaks of a certain 
kind of grape (vitis pieata, vinum pkatum) which grows naturally in the district 
of Vienne.and had recently be*n transplanted into the country of the Arverni 
(Auvergne>, of the Helvii (the Vivarais), the Sequani (Burgundy and Franche 
Compte). Pliny wrote A. D. 77. Hist. Nat. xiv. 1—W. 


of the rich. In their dress, their table, their houses, and their 
furniture, the favorites of fortune united every refinement of 
conveniency, of elegance, and of splendor, whatever could 
soothe their pride or gratify their sensuality. Such refine- 
ments, under the odious name of luxury, have been severely 
arraigned by the moralists of every age ; and it might perhaps 
be more conducive to the virtue, as well as happiness, of man- 
kind, if all possessed the necessaries, and none the super- 
fluities, of life. But in the present imperfect condition of 
society, luxury, though it may proceed from vice or folly, 
seems to be the only means that can correct the unequal dis- 
tribution of property. The diligent mechanic, and the skilful 
artist, who have obtained no share in the division of the earth, 
receive a voluntary tax from the possessors of land ; and the 
latter are prompted, by a sense of interest, to improve those 
estates, with whose produce they may purchase additional 
pleasures. This operation, the particular effects of which are 
felt in every society, acted with much more diffusive energy 
in the Roman world. The provinces would soon have been 
exhausted of their wealth, if the manufactures and commerce 
of luxury had not insensibly restored to the industrious sub- 
jects the sums which were exacted from them by the arms 
and authority of Rome. As long as the circulation was con- 
fined within the bonds of the empire, it impressed the po- 
litical machine with a new degree of activity, and its con- 
sequences, sometimes beneficial, could never become per- 

But it is no easy task to confine luxury within the limits 
of an empire. The most remote countries of the ancient 
world were ransacked to supply the pomp and delicacy 
of Rome. The forests of Scythia afforded some valuable 
fui*s. Amber was brought over land from the shores of the 
Baltic to the Danube ; and the barbarians were astonished at 
the price which they received in exchange for so useless a 
commodity. 101 There was a considerable demand for Baby- 
lonian carpets, and other manufactures of the East ; but the 
most important and unpopular branch of foreign trade was 
carried on with Arabia and India. Every year, about the time 
of the summer solstice, a fleet of a hundred and twenty ves- 
sels sailed from Myos-hormos, a port of Egypt, on the Red 
Sea. By the periodical assistance of the monsoons, they 

i 01 Tacit. Germania, c. 45. Plin. Hist. Nat. xxxvii. 13. The latter observed, 
with some humor, that even fashion had not yet found out the use of amber. 
Nero sent a Roman knight to purchase great quantities on the spot where it was 
produced, the coast of modern Prussia. 


traversed the ocean in about forty days. The coast of Mala- 
bar, or the island of Ceylon, 102 was the usual term of their 
navigation, and it was in those markets that the merchants 
from the more remote countries of Asia expected their ar- 
rival. The return of the fleet of Egypt was fixed to the 
months of December or January ; and as soon as their rich 
cargo had been transported on the backs of camels, from the 
Red Sea to the Nile, and had descended that river as far as 
Alexandria, it was poured, without delay, into the capital of 
the empire. 103 The objects of oriental traffic were splendid 
and trifling ; silk, a pound of which was esteemed not in- 
ferior in value to a pound of gold ; 104 precious stones, 
among which the pearl claimed the first rank after the 
diamond ; 105 and a variety of aromatics that were consumed 
in religious worship and the pomp of funerals. The labor 
and risk of the voyage were rewarded with almost incredible 
profit ; but the profit was made upon Roman subjects, and 
a few individuals were enriched at the expense of the public. 
As the natives of Arabia and India were contented with the 
productions and manufactures of their own country, silver, 
on the side of the Romans, was the principal, if not the only* 
instrument of commerce. It was a complaint worthy of the 
gravity of the senate, that, in the purchase of female orna- 
ments, the wealth of the state was irrecoverably given away 
to foreign and hostile nations. 106 The annual loss is com- 
puted, by a writer of an inquisitive but censorious temper, at 

102 Called Taprobana by the Romans, and Serindib by the Arabs. It was dis- 
covered under the reign of Claudius, and gradually became the principal mart 
of the East. 

wa Plin. Hist. Natur. 1. vi. Strabo, 1. xvii. 

104 Hist. August, p. 224. A silk garment was considered as an ornament to a 
woman, but as a disgrace to a man. 

105 The two great pearl fisheries were the same as at present, Ormuz and Cape 
Comorin, As well as we can compare ancient with modern geography, Rome w as 
supplied with diamonds from the mine of Jumelpur, in Bengal, which is de- 
scribed in the Voyages de Tavernier, torn. ii. p. 281. 

ioo Tacit. Annal. iii. 53. In a speech of Tiberius. 

* Certainly not the only one. The Indians were not so contented with regard 
to foreign productions. Arrian has a long list of European wares, which they 
received in exchange for their own ; Italian and other wines, brass, tin, lead, 
coral, chrysolith, storax, glass, dresses of one or many colors, zones, &c. See 
Peiiplus Maris Erythnei in Hudson, Geogr. Min. i. p. 27.— W. The German 
translator observes that Gibbon has confined the use of aromatics to religious 
worship and funerals. His error seems the omission of other spices, of which the 
Romans must have consumed great quantises in their cookery. Wenck, how- 
ever, admits that silver was the chief article of exchange. — M. 

In 1787, a peasant (near Nellore in the Carnatic) struck, in digging, on the re- 
mains of a Hindu temple ; he found, also, a pot which contained Roman coins 
and medals of the second century, mostly Trajans, Adrians, and Faustinas, all of 
gold, many of them fresh and beautiful, others defaced or perforated, as if they 
had been worn as ornaments. (Asiatic Researches, ii. 19.) — M. 


upwards of eight hundred thousand pounds sterling. 107 Such 
was the style of discontent, brooding over the dark prospect 
of approaching poverty. And yet, if we compare the pro- 
portion between gold and silver, as it stood in the time of 
Pliny, and as it was fixed in the reign of Constantine, we 
shall discover within that period a very considerable in- 
crease. 108 There is not the least reason to suppose that gold 
was become more scarce ; it is therefore evident that silver 
was grown more common ; that Avhatever might be the 
amount of the Indian and Arabian exports, they were far 
from exhausting the wealth of the Roman world ; and that 
the produce of the mines abundantly supplied the demands 
of commerce. 

Notwithstanding the propensity of mankind to exalt the 
past, and to depreciate the present, the tranquil and pros- 
perous state of the empire was warmly felt, and honestly 
confessed, by the provincials as well as Romans. " They 
acknowledged that the true principles of social life, laws, 
agriculture, and science, which had been first invented by the 
wisdom of Athens, were now firmly established by the power 
of Rome, under whose auspicious influence the fiercest bar- 
barians were united by an equal government and common 
language. They affirm, that with the improvement of arts, 
the human species was visibly multiplied. They celebrate 
the increasing splendor of the cities, the beautiful face of the 
country, cultivated and adorned like an immense garden ; 
and the long festival of peace which was enjoyed by so many 
nations, forgetful of their ancient animosities, and delivered 
from the apprehension of future danger." 109 Whatever sus- 
picions may be suggested by the air of rhetoric and declama- 
tion, which seems to prevail in these passages, the substance 
of them is perfectly agreeable to historic truth. 

It was scarcely possible that the eyes of contemporaries 
should discover in the public felicity the latent causes of 
decay and corruption. This long peace, and the uniform 
government of the Romans, introduced a slow and secret 
poison into the vitals of the empire. The minds of men 
were gradually reduced to the same level, the fire of genius 
was extinguished, and even the military spirit evaporated. 
The natives of Europe were brave and robust. Spain, Gaul, 

107 Plin. Hist. Natur. xii. 18. In another place lie computes half that sum; 
Quingenties H. S. for India exclusive of Arabia. 

lda The proportion, which was 1 to 10, and 12|, rose to 14?, the legal regula- 
tion of Constantine. See Arbuthnot's Tables of Ancient Coins, c. 5. 

109 Among many other passages, see Pliny (Hist. Natur. iii. 5), Aristides (de 
Urbe Roma) and Tertullian (de Anima, c. 30). 


Britain, and Illyricum supplied the legions with excellent 
soldiers, and constituted the real strength of the monarchy. 
Their personal valor remained, but they no longer possessed 
that public courage which is nourished by the love of inde- 
pendence, the sense of national honor, the presence of dan- 
ger, and the habit of command. They received laws and 
governors from the will of their sovereign, and trusted for 
their defence to a mercenary army. The posterity of their 
boldest leaders was contented with the rank of citizens and 
subjects. The most aspiring spirits resorted to the court 
or standard of the emperors ; and the deserted provinces, 
deprived of political strength or union, insensibly sunk into 
the languid indifference of private life. 

The love of letters, almost inseparable from peace and 
refinement, was fashionable among the subjects of Hadrian 
and the Antonines, who were themselves men of learning 
and curiosity. It was diffused over the whole extent of 
their empire ; the most northern tribes of Britons had 
acquired a taste for rhetoric ; Homer as well as Virgil were 
transcribed and studied on the banks of the Rhine and 
Danube ; and the most liberal rewards sought out the faint- 
est glimmerings of literary merit. 110 The sciences of physic 
and astronomy were successfully cultivated by the Greeks ; 
the observations of Ptolemy and the writings of Galen are 
studied by those who have improved their discoveries and 
corrected their errors ; but if we except the inimitable 
Lucian, this age of indolence passed away without having 
produced a single writer of original genius, or who excelled 
in the arts of elegant composition. f The authority of Plato 
and Aristotle, of Zeno and Epicurus, still reigned in the 
schools ; and their systems, transmitted with blind deference 

110 Herodes Atticus gave the sophist Polemo above eight thousand pounds for 
three declamations. See Philostrat. 1. i. p. 538- The Antonines founded a school 
at Athens, in which professors of grammar, rhetoric, politics, and the four great 
sects of philosophy were maintained at the public expense for the instruction of 
youth.* The salary of a philosopher was ten thousand drachmae, between three 
and four hundred pounds a year. Similar establishments were formed in the 
other great cities of the empire. See Lucian in Eunuch torn. ii. p. 352, edit. 
Reitz. Philostrat. 1. ii. p. 5G6. Hist. August, p. 21. Dion Cassius, 1. lxxi. p. 
1195. Juvenal himself, in a morose satire, which in every line betrays his own 
disappointment and envy, is obliged, however, to say. — 

" O Juvenes, circumspicit et stimulat vos, 

Materiamque Bibi Ducis indulgentia quaerit." — Satir. vii. 20. 

* Vespasian first gave a salary to professors ; he assigned to each professor of 
rhetoric, Greek and Roman, centena sestertia. (Sueton. in Vesp. 18.) Hadrian 
and the Antonines, though still liberal, were less profuse. — G. from W. Suetonius 
wrote annua centena L. 807, 5, 10.— M. 

t This judgment is rather severe : besides the physicians, astronomers, and 
grammarians, among whom there were some very distinguished men, there were 
still, under Hadrian, Suetonius, Florus, Plutarch ; under the Antonines, Arrian, 
Pausanias, Appian, Marcus Aurelius himself, Sextus Empiricus, &c. Jurispru- 


from one generation of disciples to another, precluded every 
generous attempt to exercise the powers, or enlarge the 
limits, of the human mind. The beauties of the poets and 
orators, instead of kindling a fire like their own, inspired 
only cold and servile imitations : or if any ventured to 
deviate from those models, they deviated at the same time 
from good sense and propriety. On the revival of letters, 
the youthful vigor of the imagination, after a long repose, 
national emulation, a new religion, new languages, and a 
new world, called forth the genius of Europe. But the pro- 
vincials of Rome, trained by a uniform artificial foreign 
education, were engaged in a very unequal competition with 
those bold ancients, who, by expressing their genuine feelings 
in their native tongue, had already occupied every place of 
honor. The name of Poet was almost forgotten ; that of 
Orator was usurped by the sophists. A cloud of critics, 
of compilers, of commentators, darkened the face of learn- 
ing, and the decline of genius was soon followed by the cor- 
ruption of taste. 

The sublime Longinus, who, in somewhat a later period, 
and in the court of a Syrian queen, preserved the spirit of 
ancient Athens, observes and laments this degeneracy of his 
contemporaries, which debased their sentiments, enervated 
their courage, and depressed their talents. "In the same 
manner," says he, " as some children always remain pygmies 
whose infant limbs have been too closely confined, thus our 
tender minds, fettered by the prejudices and habits of a just 
servitude, are unable to expand themselves, or to attain that 
well-proportioned greatness which we admire in the ancients ; 
who, living under a popular government, wrote with the 
same freedom as they acted." m This diminutive stature of 
mankind, if we pursue the metaphor, was daily sinking below 
the old standard, and the Roman world was indeed peopled 
by a race of pygmies ; when the fierce giants of the north 
broke in, and mended the puny breed. They restored a 
manly spirit of freedom ; and after the revolution of ten 
centuries, freedom became the happy parent of taste and 

111 Longin. de Sublim. c. 44, p. 229, edit. Toll. Here, too, we may say of 
Longinus, "his own example strengthens all his laws." Instead of proposing his 
sentiments with a manly boldness, he insinuates them with the most guarded 
caption : jiuts them into the mouth of a friend, and as far as we can collect from 
a corrupted text, makes a show of refuting them himsef. 

dence gained much by the labors of Salvius Julianus, Julius Celsus, Sex. Pom- 
ponius, Caius, and others.— G. trom W. Yet where, among these, is the writer 
of original genius, unless, perhaps, Plutarch? or even of a style really ele- 
gant ?— M. 





The obvious definition of a monarchy seems to be that 
of a state, in which a single person, by whatsoever name he 
may be distinguished, is intrusted with the execution of the 
laws, the management of the revenue, and the command of 
the army. But, unless public liberty is protected by intrepid 
and vigilant guardians, the authority of so formidable a 
magistrate will soon degenerate into despotism. The in- 
fluence of the clergy, in an age of superstition, might be use- 
fully employed to assert the rights of mankind; but so in- 
timate is the connection between the throne and the altar, 
that the banner of the church has very seldom been seen on 
the side of the people.* A martial nobility and stubborn 
commons, possessed of arms, tenacious of property, and col- 
lected into constitutional assemblies, form the only balance 
capable of preserving a free constitution against enterprises 
of an aspiring prince. 

Every barrier of the Roman constitution had been 
levelled by the vast ambition of the dictator ; every fence 
had been extirpated by the cruel hand of the triumvir. 
After the victory of Actium, the fate of the Roman world 
•depended on the will of Octavianus, surnamed Caesar, by his 
uncle's adoption, and afterwards Augustus, by the flattery 
of the senate. The conqueror was at the head of forty-four 
veteran legions, 1 conscious of their own strength, and of the 

1 Orosius, vi. 18.f 

* Often enough in the ages of superstition, but not in the interest of the peo- 

?le or the state, but in that of the church, to which all others were subordinate, 
et the power of the pope has often bean of great service in repressing the ex- 
cesses of sovereigns, and in softening manners. — W. The history of the Italian 
republics proves the error of Gibbon, and the justice of his German translator's 
comment. — M. 

t Dion says twenty-five (or three), (lv. 23.) The united triumvirs had but 
forty-three. (Appian. Bell. Civ. iv. 0.) The testimony of Orosius is of little value 
when more certain may be had. — W. But all the legions, doubtless, submitted 
to Augustus after the battle of Actium.— M. 


weakness of the constitution, habituated, during twenty 
years' civil war, to every act of blood and violence, and pas- 
sionately devoted to the house of Caesar, from whence alone 
they had received, and expected, the most lavish rewards. 
The provinces, long oppressed by the ministers of the re- 
public, sighed for the government of a single person, who 
would be the master, not the accomplice, of those petty 
tyrants. The people of Rome, viewing, with a secret 
pleasure, the humiliation of the aristocracy, demanded only 
bread and public shows ; and were supplied with both by 
the liberal hand of Augustus. The rich and polite Italians, 
who had almost universally embraced the philosophy of 
Epicurus, enjoyed the present blessings of ease and tran- 
quillity, and suffered not the pleasing dream to be interrupted 
by the memory of their old tumultuous freedom. With its 
power, the senate had lost its dignity; many of the most 
noble families were extinct. The republicans of spirit and 
ability had perished in the field of battle, or in the proscrip- 
tion. The door of the assembly had been designedly left 
open, for a mixed multitude of more than a thousand per- 
sons, who reflected disgrace upon their rank, instead of de- 
riving honor from it. 2 

The reformation of the senate was one of the first steps 
in which Augustus laid aside the tyrant, and professed him- 
self the father of his country. He was elected censor ; and, 
in concert with his faithful Agrippa, he examined the list of 
the senators, expelled a few members,* whose vices or 
whose obstinacy required a public example, persuaded near 
two hundred to prevent the shame of an expulsion by a 
voluntary retreat, raised the qualification of a senator to 
about ten thousand pounds, created a sufficient number of 
patrician families, and accepted for himself the honorable 
title of Prince of the Senate, f which had always been be- 

2 Julius Caesar introduced soldiers, strangers, and half-barbarians into the 
senate (Suetou. in Caesar, c. 77, fcO.) The abuse became still more scandalous 
after his death. 

* Of these Dion and Suetonius knew nothing. — W. Dion says the contrary, 

avrb? juiv ovbeva avTUif a.— ij\eufre. — M. 

t But Augustus, tben Octavius, was censor, and in virtue of that office, even 
according to the constitution of the free republic, could reform the senate, expel 
unworthy members, name the Princeps Senatus, &c. That was called, as is well 
known, Senatum legere. It was customary, during the free republic, for the 
censor to be named Princeps Senatus (S. Liv. 1. xxvii. c. 11, 1. xl. c. 51 ); and 
Dion expressly s.ivs, that tins was done according to ancient usage. He was em- 
powered by a decree of the senate (3ovA.ij? eTrtTpeii/ao-rj?) to admit a number of 
families among the patricians. Finally, the senate was not the legislative 
power. — W- 


stowed, by the censors, on the citizen the most eminent for 
his honors and services. 3 But whilst he thus restored the 
dignity, he destroyed the independence, of the senate. The 
principles of a free constitution are irrecoverably lost, when 
the legislative power is nominated by the executive. 

Before an assembly thus modelled and prepared, Au- 
gustus pronounced a studied oration, which displayed his 
patriotism, and disguised his ambition. u He lamented, yet 
excused, his past conduct. Filial piety had required at his 
hands the revenge of his father's murder ; the humanity of 
his own nature had sometimes given way to the stern laws 
of necessity, and to a forced connection with two unworthy 
colleagues : as long as Antony lived, the republic forbade 
him to abandon her to a degenerate Roman, and a barbarian 
queen. He was now at liberty to satisfy his duty and his 
inclination. He solemnly restored the senate and people to 
all their ancient rights ; and wished only to mingle with the 
crowd of his fellow-citizens, and to share the blessings which 
he had obtained for his countrv." 4 

It would require the pen of Tacitus (if Tacitus had as- 
sisted at this assembly) to describe the various emotions of 
the senate ; those that were suppressed, and those that were 
affected. It was dangerous to trust the sincerity of Augus- 
tus ; to seem to distrust it was still more dangerous. The 
respective advantages of monarchy and a republic have 
often divided speculative inquirers ; the present greatness 
of the Roman state, the corruption of manners, and the 
license of the soldiers, supplied new arguments to the advo- 
cates of monarchy ; and these general views of government 
were again warped by the hopes and fears of each individual. 
Amidst this confusion of sentiments, the answer of the 
senate was unanimous and decisive. They refused to accept 
the resignation of Augustus ; they conjured him not to 
desert the republic, which he had saved. After a decent 
resistance, the crafty tyrant submitted to the orders of the 
senate ; and consented to receive the government of the 
provinces, and the general command of the Roman armies, 
under the well-known names of Proconsul and Imperator. 5 

3 Dion Cassius, 1. liii. p. G93. Suetoniur, in August, c. 35. 

4 Dion (1. liii. p. 698) gives lis a prolix and bombast speech on this great occa- 
sion. I have borrowed from Suetonius and Tacitus the general language of 

& Imperator (from which we have derived Emperor) s ignified under the repub- 
lic no more than general, and was emphatically bestowed by the soldiers, when 
on the field of battle they proclaimed their victorious leader worthy of that title. 
When the Roman emperors assumed it in that sense, they placed it after their 
name, and marked how often they had taken it. 


But he would receive them only for ten years. Even before 
the expiration of that period, he hoped that the wounds of 
civil discord would be completely healed, and that the re- 
public, restored to its pristine health and vigor, would no 
longer require the dangerous interposition of so extraor- 
dinary a magistrate. The memory of this comedy, repeated 
several times during the life of Augustus, was preserved to 
the last ages of the empire, by the peculiar pomp with 
which the perpetual monarchs of Rome always solemnized 
the tenth years of their reign. 6 

Without any violation of the principles of the constitu- 
tion, the general of the Roman armies might receive and 
exercise an authority almost despotic over the soldiers, the 
enemies, and the subjects of the republic. With regard to 
the soldiers, the jealousy of freedom had, even from the 
earliest ages of Rome, given way to the hopes of conquest, 
and a just sense of military discipline. The dictator, or 
consul, had a right to command the service of the Roman 
youth ; and to punish an obstinate or cowardly disobedi- 
ence by the most severe and ignominious penalties, by strik- 
ing the offender out of the list of citizens, by confiscating 
his property, and by selling his person into slavery. 7 The 
most sacred rights of freedom, confirmed by the Porcian 
and Sempronian laws, were suspended by the military 
engagement. In his camp the general exercised an absolute 
power of life and death; his jurisdiction was not confined 
by any forms of trial, or rules of proceeding, and the ex- 
ecution of the sentence was immediate and without appeal. 8 
The choice of the enemies of Rome was regularly decided 
by the legislative authority. The most important resolu- 
tions of peace and war were seriously debated in the senate, 
and solemnly ratified by the people. But when the arms of 
the legions were carried to a great distance from Italy, the 
generals assumad the liberty of directing them against 
whatever people, and in Avhatever manner, they judged 
most advantageous for the public service. It was from the 
success, not from the justice, of their enterprises, that they 
expected the honors of a triumph. In the use of victory, 
especially after they were no longer controlled by the com- 

6 Dion, 1. liii. p. 703, <Src. 

7 Livy Epitom. 1. xiv. [c. 27.] Valer. Maxim, vi. 3. 

8 See, in the viiitli book of Livy, the conduct of Manilas Torquatus and Papi- 
rius Cursor. They violated the laws of nature and humanity, but they asserted 
those of military discipline ; and the people, who abhorred th6action,were obliged 
to respect the principle. 


missioners of the senate, they exercised the most unbounded 
despotism. When Pompey commanded in the East, he 
rewarded his soldiers and allies, dethroned princes, divided 
kingdoms, founded colonies, and distributed the treasures of 
Mithridates. On his return to Rome, he obtained, by a 
single act of the senate and people, the universal ratification 
of all his proceedings. 9 Such was the power over the sol- 
diers, and over the enemies of Rome, which was either 
granted to, or assumed by, the generals of the republic. 
They were, at the same time, the governors, or rather 
monarchs, of the conquered provinces, united the civil with 
the military character, administered justice as well as the 
finances, and exercised both the executive and legislative 
power of the state. 

From what has been already observed in the first chapter 
of this work, some notion may be formed of the armies and 
provinces thus intrusted to the ruling hand of Augustus. 
But as it was impossible that he could personally command 
the legions of so many distant frontiers, he was indulged by 
the senate, as Pompey had already been, in the permission 
of devolving the execution of his great office on a sufficient 
number of lieutenants. In rank and authority these officers 
seemed not inferior to the ancient proconsuls ; but their 
station was dependent and precarious. They received and 
held their commissions at the will of a superior, to whose 
auspicious influence the merit of their actions was legally 
attributed. 10 They were the representatives of the emperor. 
The emperor alone was the general of the republic, and his 
jurisdiction, civil as well as military, extended over all the 
conquests of Rome. It was some satisfaction, however, to 
the senate, that he always delegated his power to the mem- 
bers of their body. The imperial lieutenants were of con- 
sular or praetorian dignity ; the legions were commanded by 
senators, and the prefecture of Egypt was the only impor- 
tant trust committed to a Roman knight. 

By the lavish but unconstrained suffrages of the people, Pompey had ob- 
tained a military command scarcely inferior to that of Augustus. Among the 
extraordinary acts of i>ower executed by the former, we may remark the founda- 
tion of twenty-nine cities, ami the distribution of three or lour millions sterling 
to his troops. The ratification of his acts met with some opposition and delays 
in the senate. See Plutarch, Appian, Dion Cassius, and the iirst book of the 
epistles to Atticus. 

10 Under the commonwealth, a triumph could only be claimed by the general, 
who was authorized to take the Auspices in the name of the people. By an exact 
consequence, drawn from this principle of policy and religion, the triumph was 
reserved to the emperor; and his most successful lieutenants were satisfied with 
some marks of distinction, which, under the name of triumphal honors, were 
invented in their favor. 



"Within six days after Augustus had been compelled to 
accept so very liberal a grant, he resolved to gratify the 
pride of the senate by an easy sacrifice. He represented to 
them, that they had enlarged his powers, even beyond that 
degree which might be required by the melancholy condi- 
tion of the times. They had not permitted him to refuse 
the laborious command of the armies and the frontiers ; but 
he must insist on being allowed to restore the more peaceful 
and secure provinces to the mild administration of the civil 
magistrate. In the division of the provinces, Augustus 
provided for his own power and for the dignity of the re- 
public. The proconsuls of the senate, particularly those of 
Asia, Greece, and Africa, enjoyed a more honorable char- 
acter than the lieutenants of the emperor, who commanded 
in Gaul or Syria. The former were attended by lictors, the 
latter by soldiers.* A law was passed, that wherever the 
emperor was present, his extraordinary commission should 
supersede the ordinary jurisdiction of the governor ; a cus- 
tom was introduced, that the new conquests belonged to 
the imperial portion ; and it was soon discovered that the 
authority of the Prince, the favorite epithet of Augustus, 
was the same in every part of the empire. 

In return for this imaginary concession, Augustus ob- 
tained an important privilege, which rendered him master 
of Rome and Italy. By a dangerous exception to the 
ancient maxims, he was authorized to preserve his military 
command, supported by a numerous body of guards, even 
in time of peace, and in the heart of the capital. His com- 
mand, indeed, was confined to those citizens who were 
engaged in the service by the military oath ; but such was 
the propensity of the Romans to servitude, that the oath 
was voluntarily taken by the magistrates, the senators, and 
the equestrian order, till the homage of flattery was insen- 
sibly converted into an annual and solemn protestation of 

Although Augustus considered a military force as the 
firmest foundation, he wisely rejected it as a very odious 
instrument of government. It was more agreeable to his 

* This distinction is without foundation. The lieutenants of the emperor, 
who were called Proprietors, whether they had been pr.etois or consuls, were at- 
tended by six lictors ; those who had the right of the sword, (of life and death 
over the soldiers.— M.) bore the military hauii (paluuamentum) and the sword. 
The provincial governors commissioned by the senate, who, whether they had 
been consuls or not, were called Proconsuls, had twelve lictors when they had 
been consuls, and six only when they had but been prajtors. The provinces of 
Africa and Asia were only given to ex-consuls. See, on the Organizatiou of the 
Provinces, Dion, liii. 12, 16. Strabo, xvii. 840.— W. 


temper, as well as to his policy, to reign under the venerable 
names of ancient magistracy, and artfully to collect, in his 
own person, all the scattered rays of civil jurisdiction. 
With this view, he permitted the senate to confer upon 
him, for his life, the powers of the consular n and tribunitian 
offices, 12 which were, in the same manner, continued to all 
his successors. The consuls had succeeded to the kinsrs of 
Rome, and represented the dignity of the state. They 
superintended the ceremonies of religion, levied and com- 
manded the legions, gave audience to foreign ambassadors, 
and presided in the assemblies both of the senate and 
people. The general control of the finances was intrusted 
to their care ; and though they seldom had leisure to 
administer justice in person, they were considered as the 
supreme guardians of law, equity, and the public peace. 
Such was their ordinary jurisdiction : bat whenever the 
senate empowered the first magistrate to consult the safety 
of the commonwealth, he was raised by that decree above 
the laws, and exercised, in the defence of liberty, a tempo- 
rary despotism. 13 The character of the tribunes was, in 
every respect, different from that of the consuls. The 
appearance of the former was modest and humble ; but 
their persons were sacred and inviolable. Their force was 
suited rather for opposition than for action. They were 
instituted to defend the oppressed, to pardon offences, to 
arraign the enemies of the people, and, when they judged 
it necessary, to stop, by a single word, the whole machine 
of srovernment. As long as the republic subsisted, the 
dangerous influence, which either the consul or the tribune 
might derive from their respective jurisdiction, was dimin- 
ished by several important restrictions. Their authority 
expired with the year in which they were elected ; the 
former office was divided between two, the latter among 
ten persons; and, as both in their private and public interest 
they were averse to each other, their mutual conflicts con- 
tributed, for the most part, to strengthen rather than to 

11 Cicero (<le Legibus. iii. 3) gives the consular office the name of Ref/ia potestas ; 
and Polybius (1. vi. e. 3) observes three powers in the Roman constitution. The 
monarchical was represented and exercised by the consuls. 

u As the tribunitian power (distinct from the annual office) was first invented 
by the dictator Csesar, (Dion, 1. xliv. p. 3s4,) we may easily conceive, that it was 
given as a rewai d for having so nobly asserted, by arms, the sacred rights of the 
tribunes and people. See bis own Commentaries, de Bell. Civil. 1. i. 

1: Augustus exercised nine annual consulships without interruption. He then 
most artfully refused that magistracy, as well as the dictatorship, absented him- 
self from Horns, and waited Li 1 1 the fatal effects of tumult and faction forced the 
senate to invest him with a perpetual consulship. Augustus, as well as his suc- 
cessors, affected, however, to conceal so invidious a title. 


destroy the balance of the constitution.* But when the 
consular and tribunitian powers were united, when they 
were vested for life in a single person, when the general of 
the army was, at the same time, the minister of the senate 
and the representative of the Roman people, it was impos- 
sible to resist the exercise, nor was it easy to define the 
limits, of his imperial prerogative. 

To these accumulated honors, the policy of Augustus 
soon added the splendid as well as important dignities of 
supreme pontiff, and of censor. By the former he acquired 
the management of the religion, and by the latter a legal 
inspection over the manners and fortunes, of the Roman 
people. If so many distinct and independent powers did 
not exactly unite with each other, the complaisance of the 
senate was prepared to supply every deficiency by the most 
ample and extraordinary concessions. The emperors, as the 
first ministers of the republic, were exempted from the obliga- 
tion and penalty of many inconvenient laws : they were 
authorized to convoke the senate, to make several motions in 
the same day, to recommend candidates for the honors of 
the state, to enlarge the bounds of the city, to employ the 
revenue at their discretion, to declare peace and Avar, to 
ratify treaties ; and by a most comprehensive clause, they 
were empowered to execute whatsoever they should judge 
advantageous to the empire, and agreeable to the majesty 
of things private or public, human or divine. 14 

When all the various powers of executive government 
were committed to the Imperial magistrate, the ordinary 
magistrates of the commonwealth languished in obscurity, 
without vigor, and almost without business. The names 
and forms of the ancient administration were preserved by 
Augustus with the most anxious care. The usual number 
of consuls, praetors, and tribunes, 15 were annually invested 

14 See a fragment of a Decree of the Senate, conferring on the Emperor Ves- 
pasian all the powers granted to his predecessors, Augustus, Tiberius, and Clau- 
dius. This curious and important monument is published in Gi*uter's Inscrip- 
tions, No. ccxlii.f 

!-> Two consuls were created on the Calends of January ; hut in the course of 
the year others were substituted in their places, till the annual number seems to 
have amounted to no less than twelve. The pra'tors were usually sixteen or 
eighteen, (Lipsius in Excurs. D. ad Tacit. Annal. 1. i.) I have not mentioned the 

* The note of M. Guizot on the tribunitian power applies to the Ft 
lation rather than to the original. The former has, maintenir ?.a balai; 

French trans- 
uice toujouva 
ftgale, which implies much more than Gibbon's general expression. The note 
belongs rather to the history of the Republic than that of the Lmpire. — M. 

t It is also in the editions of Tacitus by Ilyck, (Annal. p.420,-221.) and Lrnesti, 
(Excurs. ad lib. iv. G ;) but this fragment contains so many inconsistencies, both 
in matter and form, that its authenticity may be doubted.— W. 


with their respective ensigns of office, and continued to dis- 
charge some of their least important functions. Those honors 
still attracted the vain ambition of the Romans ; and the em- 
perors themselves, though invested for life with the powers 
of the consulship, frequently aspired to the title of that 
annual dignity, which they condescended to share with the 
most illustrious of their fellow-citizens. 16 In the election of 
these magistrates, the people, during the reign of Augustus, 
were permitted to expose all the inconveniences of a wild 
democracy. That artful prince, instead of discovering the 
least symptom of impatience, humbly solicited their suf- 
frages for himself or his friends, and scrupulously practised 
all the duties of an ordinary candidate. 17 But we may 
venture to ascribe to his councils the first measure of the 
succeeding reign, by which the elections were transferred 
to the senate. 18 The assemblies of the people were forever 
abolished, and the emperors were delivered from a danger- 
ous multitude, who, without restoring liberty, might have 
disturbed, and perhaps endangered, the established gov- 

By declaring themselves the protectors of the people, 
Marius and Caesar had subverted the constitution of their 
country. But as soon as the senate had been humbled and 
disarmed, such an assembly, consisting of five or six hundred 
persons, was found a much more tractable and useful instru- 
ment of dominion. It was on the dignity of the senate 
that Augustus and his successors founded their new empire ; 
and they affected, on every occasion, to adopt the language 
and principles of Patricians. In the administration of their 
own powers, they frequently consulted the great national 

^Ediles or Qusestors. Officers of the police or revenue easily adapt themselves to 
any form of government. Jn the time of Nero, the tribunes legally possessed the 
right of intercession, though it might be dangerous to exen ise it. (Tacit. Amial. 
xvi. 1G-) In the time of Trajan, it was doubtful whether the tribuneship was an 
office or a name, (Plin. Epist. i. 23.) 

''The tyrants themselves were ambitious of the consulship. The virtuous 
princes were moderate in the pursuit, and exact in the discharge of it- Trajan 
revived the ancient oath, and swore before the consul's tribunal that he would 
observe the laws, (Plin. Panegyric, c. Gi.) 

*' Quoties Magistratuum Comitiis interesset. Tribus cum candidatis suis cir- 
cuibat: supplicabatque more solemni. Ferebat et ipse suffiagium in tribubus, ut 
unus e populo. Suetonius in August, c. 5G. 

18 Turn primum Comitia e campo ad patres translata sunt. Tacit. Annal. i. 
15. The word primum seems to allude to some faint and unsuccessful efforts 
which were made towards restoring them to the people.* 

* The emperor Caligula made the attempt: he restored the Comitia to the 
people, but, in a short time, took them away again. Suet, in ( aio. c. 1G. Dion. 
lix. 'J, 20. iSevertheless, at the time of Dion, they preserved still the form of the 
Comitia. Dion, lviii. 20.— W. 


council, and seemed to refer to its decision the most impor- 
tant concerns of peace and war. Rome, Italy, and the 
internal provinces, were subject to the immediate jurisdic- 
tion of the senate. With regard to civil objects, it was tho 
supreme court of appeal ; with regard to criminal matters, a 
tribunal, constituted for the trial of all offences that were 
committed by men in any public station, or that affected 
the peace and majesty of the Roman people. The exercise 
of the judicial power became the most frequent and serious 
occupation of the senate ; and the important causes that 
were pleaded before them afforded a last refuge to the 
spirit of ancient eloquence. As a council of state, and as a 
court of justice, the senate possessed very considerable pre- 
rogatives ; but in its legislative capacity, in which it was 
supposed virtually to represent the people, the rights of 
sovereignty were acknowledged to reside in that assembly. 
Every power was derived from thei* authority, every law 
was ratified by their sanction. Their regular meetings 
were held on three stated days in every month — the lends, 
the Nones, and the Ides. The debates were conducted 
with decent freedom ; and the emperors themselves, who 
gloried in the name of senators, sat, voted, and divided 
with their equals. 

To resume, in a few words, the system of the Imperial 
government, as it was instituted by Augustus, and main- 
tained by those princes who understood their own interest 
and that of the people, it may be defined an absolute mon- 
archy disguised by the forms of a commonwealth. The 
masters of the Roman world surrounded their throne with 
darkness, concealed their irresistible strength, and humbly 
professed themselves the accountable ministers of the senate, 
whose supreme decrees they dictated and obeyed. 19 

The face of the court corresponded with the forms of 
the administration. The emperors, if we except those ty- 
rants whose capricious folly violated every law of nature 
and decency, disdained that pomp and ceremony which 
might offend their countrymen, but could add nothing to 
their real power. In all the offices of life, they affected to 

19 Dion Cassias (1. liii. p. 703-714) has given a very loose and partial sketch of 
the Imperial system. To illustrate and" often to correct him, I have meditated 
Tacitus, examined Suetonius, and consulted the following moderns : the Abbe 
de la Bleterie, in the Meuioires de PAcademie des Inscriptions, torn. xix. xxi. 
xxiv. xxv. xxvii. Beaufort, Kcpnblique Komaine, torn. i. p. 255-275. The Dis- 
sertations of No'>dt and Gronovius, de leg:' ftegia. printed at Leyden, in the year 
1731. Gravini dc Imperio Romano, p. 479-514 of his Opuscula. jVlatfei, Verona 
lllustrata, p. i. p. 245, &c. 


confound themselves with their subjects, and maintained 
with them an equal intercourse of visits and entertainments. 
Their habit, their palace, their table, were suited only to the 
rank of an opulent senator. Their family, however numer- 
ous or splendid, was composed entirely of their domestic 
slaves and freed men. 20 Augustus or Trajan would have 
blushed at employing the meanest of the Romans in those 
menial offices, which, in the household and bedchamber of a 
limited monarch, are so eagerly solicited by the proudest 
nobles of Britain. 

The deification of the emperors 21 is the only instance in 
which they departed from their accustomed prudence and 
modesty. The Asiatic Greeks were the first inventors, the 
successors of Alexander the first objects, of this servile and 
impious mode of adulation.* It was easily transferred from 
the kings to the governors of Asia ; and the Roman magis- 
trates very frequently were adored as provincial deities, 
with the pomp of altars and temples, of festivals and sacri- 
fices. 22 It was natural that the emperors should not refuse 
what the proconsuls had accepted ; and the divine honors 
which both the one and the other received from the prov- 
inces, attested rather the despotism than the servitude of 
Rome. But the conquerors soon imitated the vanquished 
nations in the arts of flattery ; and the imperious spirit of 
the first Caesar too easily consented to assume, during his 
lifetime, a place among the tutelar deities of Rome. The 
milder temper of his successor declined so dangerous an 

20 A weak prince will always be governed by his domestics. The power of 
slaves aggravated the shame of tli3 Romans ; and the senate paid court to a 
Pallas or a Narcissus. There is a chance that a modern favorite may be a gen- 

- 1 See a treatise of Vandale de Conseeratione Principium. It would be easier 
for me to copy, than it has been to verify, the quotations of that learned Dutch- 

22 See a dissertation of the Abbe Mongault in the first volume of the Academy 
of Inscriptions. 

* This is inaccurate. The successors of Alexander were not the first deified 
sovereigns : the Egyptians had deitied and worshipped many of their kings ; the 
Olympus of the Greeks was peopled with divinities who liad reigned on earth; 
finally, Romulus himself had received the honors of an apotheosis (Tit. Liv. i. 10) 
a long time before Alexander and his successors. It is also an inaccuracy to 
co.ifound the honors offered in the provinces to the Roman governors, by temples 
anl altars, with the true apotheosis of the emperors ; it was not a religious wor- 
ship, for it had neither priests nor sacrifices. Augustus was severely blamed for 
having permitted himself to be worshipped as a god in the provinces, (Tac. Ann. 
i. 10 ;) he would not have incurred that blame if he had only done what the gov- 
ernors were accustomed to do. — G. from W. M. G-uzot lias been guilty of a still 
greater inaccuracy in confounding the deification of the living with the apotheo- 
sis of the dead emperors. The nature of the king-worship of Egypt is still very 
obscure ; the hero-worship of the Greeks very different from the adoration of 
the " piaesens numen " in the reigning sovereign. — M. 


ambition, which was never afterwards revived, except by 
the madness of Caligula and Domitian. Augustus per- 
mitted indeed some of the provincial cities to erect temples 
to his honor, on condition that they should associate the 
worship of Rome with that of the sovereign ; he tolerated 
private superstition, of which he might be the object;* 23 but 
he contented himself with being revered by the senate and 
the people in his human character, and wisely left to his suc- 
cessor the care of his public deification. A regular custom 
was introduced, that on the decease of every emperor who 
had neither lived nor died like a tyrant, the senate by a 
solemn decree should place him in the number of the gods ; 
and the ceremonies of his apotheosis were blended with 
those of his funeral.f This legal, and, as it should seem, 
injudicious profanation, so abhorrent to our stricter prin- 
ciples, was received with a very faint murmur, 24 by the easy 
nature of Polytheism ; but it was received as an institution^ 
not of religion, but of policy. We should disgrace the vir- 
tues of the Antoniues by comparing them with the vices of 
Hercules or Jupiter. Even the characters of Caesar or 
Augustus were far superior to those of the popular deities. 
But it was the misfortune of the former to live in an en- 
lightened age, and their actions were too faithfully recorded 
to admit of such a mixture of fable and mystery, as the de- 
votion of the vulgar requires. As soon as their divinity 
was established by law, it sunk into oblivion, without con- 
tributing either to their own fame, or to the dignity of suc- 
ceeding princes. 

In the consideration of the Imperial government, we 
have frequently mentioned the artful founder, under his 
well-known title of Augustus, which was not, however^ con- 
ferred upon him till the edifice was almost completed. The 
obscure name of Octavianus he derived from a mean family, 
in the little town of Aricia.| It was stained with the blood 

23 Jurandasque tuum per nomen pon irons aras, says Horace to the emperor 
himself, and Horace was well acquainted with the court of Augustus.* 

M See Cicero in Philippic, i. 6. Julian in Cassaribus. Inque Deum templis 
jurabit Roma per umbras, is ihe indignant expression of Lucan ; but it is a pa- 
triotic, rather than a devout indignation. 

* The good princes were not those who alone obtained the honors of an apoth 
eosis ; it was conferred on many tyrants. See an excellent treatise of Sclu-ep- 
ilin, de Consecratione lmperatorum Komanorum, in his 'Jommefitationes histo- 
rical et critical. Bile, 1741, p. 184. — W. 

t The curious satire the o.-toko\vvto>7i<;, in the works of Seneca, is the strongest 
remonstrance of profaned religion. — M. 

% Octavius was not of an obscure family, but of a considerable one of the 
equestrian order. His father, C- Octavius, who possessed great property, had 
been praetor, governor of Macedonia, adorned with the title of lmperator, and 


of the proscription ; and he was desirous, had it been pos- 
sible, to erase all memory of his former life. The illus- 
trious surname of Caesar he had assumed, as the adopted 
son of the dictator ; but he had too much good sense, either 
to hope to be confounded, or to wish to be compared, with 
that extraordinary man. It was proposed in the senate to 
dignify their minister with a new appellation ; and after a 
serious discussion, that of Augustus was chosen, among 
several others, as being the most expressive of the character 
of peace and sanctity, which he uniformly affected. 25 Au- 
gustus was therefore a personal, Ccesar a family distinction. 
The former should naturally have expired with the prince 
on whom it was bestowed ; and however the latter was dif- 
fused by adoption and female alliance, Nero was the last 
prince who could allege any hereditary claim to the honors 
of the Julian line. But, at the time of his death, the prac- 
tice of a century had inseparably connected those appel- 
lations with the Imperial dignity, and they have been pre- 
served by a long succession of emperors, Romans, Greeks, 
Franks, and Germans, from the fall of the republic to the 
present time. A distinction was, however, soon intro- 
duced. The sacred title of Augustus was always reserved 
for the monarch, whilst the name of Caesar was more freely 
communicated to his relations ; and from the reign of Ha- 
drian, at least, was appropriated to the second person in 
the state, who was considered as the presumptive heir of 
the empire. * 

The tender respect of Augustus for a free constitution 
which he had destroyed can only be explained by an atten- 
tive consideration of the character of that subtle tyrant. 

25 Dion Cassius, 1. liii. p. 710, with the curious Annotations of Rcimar. 

was on the point of becoming consul when he died. His mother, Attia, was 
daughter oc M. Aftiu.3 Balbus, who had also been praetor. M. Anthony reproached 
Octavius with having been born in Aricia, which, nevertheless, was a consider- 
able municipal city : be was vigorously refuted by Cicero. Philip, iii. c. 6. — W. 
Gibbon probably meant that the family had but recently emerged into notice. 
— M. 

* The princes who by their birth or their adoption belonged to the family of 
the Caesars, took the name ot Caesar. After the death of Nero, this name des- 
ignated the Imperial dignity itselt, and afterwards the appointed successor. 
The time at which it was employed in the latter sense, cannot, be fixed with cer- 
tainty. Bach (Hist. Jurisprud. Rom. 304) affirms from Tacitus, H. i. 15, and 
Suetonius, Galba 17, that Galba conferred on Piso Licinianus the title of Caesar, 
and from that time the term had this meaning : but these two historians simply 
say that he appointed Piso his successor, and do not mention the word Cajsar. 
Aurelius Victor (in Traj. 34*. ed. Artzen) savs that Hadrian first received this 
title on His adoption ; but as the adoption of Hadrian is still doubtful, and be- 
sides this, as Trajan, on his death-bed, was not likelv to have created a new title 
for his successor, it is more probable that ^Elius Verus was the first who was 
called Caesar, when adopted by Hadrian. Spart. in iElio Vero, 102.— W. 


A cool head, an unfeeling heart, and a cowardly disposition, 
prompted him at the age of nineteen to assume the mask of 
hypocrisy, which lie never afterwards laid aside. With the 
same hand, and probably with the same temper, he signed 
the proscription of Cicero, and the pardon of China. His 
virtues, and even his vices, were artificial ; and according 
to the various dictates of his interest, he was at first the 
enemy, and at last the father, of the Roman world. 20 When 
he framed the artful system of the Imperial authority, his 
moderation was inspired by his fears. He wished to deceive 
the people by an image of civil liberty, and the armies by 
an image of civil government. 

T. The death of Caesar Avas ever before his eyes. He had 
lavished wealth and honors on his adherents; but the most 
favored friends of his uncle were in the number of the con- 
spirators. The fidelity of the legions might defend his au- 
thority against open rebellion ; but their vigilance could not 
secure his person from the dagger of a determined republi- 
can ; and the Romans, who revered the memory of Brutus, 27 
would applaud the imitation of his virtue. Caesar had pro- 
voked his fate, as much by the ostentation of his power, as 
by his power itself. The consul or the tribune might have 
reigned in peace. The title of king had armed the Romans 
against his life. Augustus was sensible that mankind is gov- 
erned by names; nor was he deceived in his expectation, 
that the senate and people would submit to slavery, provided 
they were respectfully assured that they still enjoyed their 
ancient freedom. A feeble senate and enervated people 
cheerfully acquiesced in the pleasing illusion, as long as it 
was supported by the virtue, or even by the prudence, of the 
successors of Augustus. It was a motive of self-preserva- 
tion, not a principle of liberty, that animated the conspira- 
tors against Caligula, Nero, and Domitian. They attacked 
the person of tli3 tyrant, without aiming their blow at the 
authority of the emperor. 

2(5 As Octavianus advanced to the banquet of the Caesars, his color changed like 
that of the chameleon ; pale at first, then red, afterwards black, he at last as- 
sumed the mild livery of Venus and the Graces (Caesars, p. 309). This image, 
employed by Julian in his ingenious liction, is just and elegant ; but when he con- 
siders this change of character as real, and ascribes it to the power of philosophy, 
he does too much honor to philosophy and to Octavianus. 

2? Two centuries after the establishment of monarchy, the emperor Marcus 
Antoninus recommends the character of Brutus as a perfect model of Roman 

* In a very ingenious essay. Gibbon has ventured to call in question the pre- 
eminent virtue of Brutus. Misc. Works, iv. 95.— M. 


There appears, indeed, one memorable occasion, in which 
the senate, after seventy years of patience, made an ineffec- 
tual attempt to resume its long-forgotten rights. When the 
throne was vacant by the murder of Caligula, the consuls 
convoked that assembly in the Capitol, condemned the mem- 
ory of the Caesars, gave the watchword liberty to the few 
cohorts who faintly adhered to their standard, and during 
eight-and-forty hours acted as the independent chiefs of a 
free commonwealth. But while they deliberated, the praeto- 
rian guards had resolved. The stupid Claudius, brother of 
Germanicus, was already in their camp, invested with the 
Imperial purple, and prepared to support his election by 
arms. The dream of liberty was at an end ; and the senate 
awoke to all the horrors of inevitable servitude. Deserted 
by the people, and threatened by a military force, that feeble 
assembly was compelled to ratify the choice of the praeto- 
rians, and to embrace the benefit of an amnesty, which 
Claudius had the prudence to offer, and the generosity to 
observe. 28 

II. The insolence of the armies inspired Augustus with 
fears of a still more alarming nature. The despair of the 
citizens could only attempt, what the power of the soldiers 
was, at any time, able to execute. How precarious was his 
own authority over men whom he had taught to violate 
every social duty ! He had heard their seditious clamors ; 
he dreaded their calmer moments of reflection. One revolu- 
tion had been purchased by immense rewards ; but a second 
revolution might double those rewards. The troops pro- 
fessed the fondest attachment to the house of Caesar ; but 
the attachments of the multitude are capricious and incon- 
stant. Augustus summoned to his aid whatever remained 
in those fierce minds of Roman prejudices; enforced the 
rigor of discipline by the sanction of law ; and, interposing 
the majesty of the senate between the emperor and the army, 
boldly claimed their allegiance, as the first magistrate of the 
republic. 29 

During a long period of two hundred and twenty years, 
from the establishment of this artful system to the death of 
Commodus, the dangers inherent to a military government 

28 It is much to be regretted that we have lost the part of Tacitus which treat- 
ed <«f that transaction. We are forced to content ourselves with the popular 
rumors of dosephus, and the imperfect hints of Dion and Suetonius. 

-■> Augustus restored the ancient severity of discipline. After the civil wars, 
he dropped the endearing name of Fellow-Soldiers, and called them only Soldiers 
(Sueton. in August, c. 25). See the use Tiberius made of the Senate in the 
mutiny of the Pannonian legions, (Tacit. Anna!, i.) 



were, in a great measure, suspended. The soldiers were 
seldom roused to that fatal sense of their own strength, and 
of the weakness of the civil authority, which Avas, before 
and afterwards, productive of such dreadful calamities. Cal- 
igula and Domitian were assassinated in their palace by 
their own domestics : * the convulsions which agitated Rome 
on the death of the former were confined to the walls of the 
city. But Nero involved the whole empire in his ruin. In 
the space of eighteen months, four princes perished by the 
sword ; and the Roman world was shaken by the fury of the 
contending armies. Excepting only this short, though vio- 
lent eruption of military license, the two centuries from 
Augustus to Commodus passed away unstained with civil 
blood, and undisturbed by revolutions. The emperor was 
elected by the authority of the senate and the consent of the 
soldiers.® The legions respected their oath of fidelity ; and it 
requires a minute inspection of the Roman annals to dis- 
cover three inconsiderable rebellions, which were all sup- 
pressed in a few months, and without even the hazard of a 
battle. 31 

In elective monarchies, the vacancy of the throne is a 
moment big with danger and mischief. The Roman emper- 
ors, desirous to spare the legions that interval of suspense, 
and the temptation of an irregular choice, invested their 
designed successor with so large a share of present power, 
as should enable him, after their decease, to assume the re- 
mainder, without suffering the empire to perceive the change 

3) The-;e words seem to have been the constitutional language. See Tacit. 
Annal. xiii. 4.t 

:il The lirst was Camillus Scribonianns, who took up arms in Dalmatia against 
Claudius, and was deserted by his troop.-* in live days ; the second, L. Antbnius, 
iii Germany, who rebelled against Domitian': and the third. Avidius Cassias, in 
tho reign of M.Antoninus. The two last reigned but a few months, ana were 
cut o/f by their own adheents. We may observe, that both Camillus and Cassias 
colored their ambition with the design of restoring the republic ; a task, said 
Cassius, peculiarly reserved for his name and family. 

* Caligula perished by a conspiracy formed by the officers of the praetorian 
troo->s, and Domitian would not, perhaps, have been assassinated without ihe 
participation of the two chiefs of that guard in his death. — W. 

t This panegyric on the soldiery i i rather too liberal. Claudius was obliged to 
purchase their consent to his coronation : the presents which he made, and those 
which the praetorians received on other occasions, considerably embarra sed the 
finances. Moreover, this formidable guard favored, in general, the cruelties of 
the tyrants. The distant revolts were more frequent than Gibbon thinks : al- 
ready, under Tiberius, the legions of Germany would have seditiously constrain- 
ed Germanicus to assume the Imperial purple. On the revolt of Claudius Civilis, 
under Vespasian, the legions of Gaul murdered their general, and offered their 
assistance to the Gauls who were in insurrection. Julius Sabinus made hims;:lf 
be proclaimed emperor, &c. The wars, the merit, and the severe discipline of 
Trajan, Hadrian, and the two Antonines, established, for some time, a greater 
degree of subordination.— W. 


of masters. Thus Augustus, after all his fairer prospects 
had been snatched from him by untimely deaths, rested his 
last hopes on Tiberius, obtained for his adopted son the 
censorial and tribunitian powers, and dictated a law, by 
which the future prince was invested with an authority equal 
to his own, over the provinces and the armies. 32 Thus Ves- 
pasian subdued the generous mind of his eldest son. Titus 
was adored by the eastern legions, which, under his com- 
mand, had recently achieved the conquest of Judaea. His 
power was dreaded, and, as his virtues were clouded by the 
intemperance of youth, his designs were suspected. Instead 
of listening to such unworthy suspicions, the prudent mon- 
arch associated Titus to the full powers of the Imperial dig- 
nity; and the grateful son ever approved himself the hum- 
ble and faithful minister of so indulgent a father. 33 

The good sense of Vespasian engaged him indeed to em- 
brace every measure that might confirm his recent and pre- 
carious elevation. The military oath and the fidelity of the 
troops had been consecrated, by the habits of a hundred 
years, to the name and family of the Caesars ; and although 
that family had been continued only by the fictitious rite of 
adoption, the Romans still revered, in the person of Nero, 
the grandson of Germanicus, and the lineal successor of 
Augustus. It was not without reluctance and remorse, that 
the praetorian guards had been persuaded to abandon the 
cause of the tyrant. 34 The rapid downfall of Galba, Otho, and 
Vitcllius taught the armies to consider the emperors as the 
creatures of their will, and the instruments of their license. 
The birth of Vespasian was mean ; his grandfather had been 
a private soldier, his father a petty officer of the revenue; 35 
his own merit had raised him, in an advanced age, to the 
empire ; but his merit was rather useful than shining, and his 
virtues were disgraced by a strict and even sordid parsimony. 
Such a prince consulted his true interest by the association 
of a son, whose more splendid and amiable character might 
turn the public attention from the obscure origin to the 
future glories of the Flavian house. Under the mild admin- 
istration of Titus, the Roman world enjoyed a transient 

32 Velleius Patsrculus, 1. ii. c. 121. Sueton. in Tiber, c 20. 

33 Sueton. in Tit. c. G. Plin. in Praefat. Hist. Natur. 

34 This idea is frequently and strongly inculcated by Tacitus. See Hist. i. 5, 
16, ii. 7G. 

*• The emperor Vespasian . with his usual gooil sens?, laughed at the geneal- 
ogists, who deduced his family i'ro:n Flavins, the founder of lieate (his native 
country), and one of the companions of Hercules. Suet, in Vespasian, c. 12. 


felicity, and his beloved memory served to protect, above 
fifteen years, the vices of his brother Domitian. 

Nerva had scarcely accepted the purple from the assassins 
of Domitian, before he discovered that his feeble age was 
unable to stem the torrent of public disorders, which had 
multiplied under the long tyranny of his predecessor. His 
mild disposition was respected by the good ; but the degen- 
erate Romans required a more vigorous character, whose 
justice should strike terror into the guilty. Though he had 
several relations, he fixed his choice on a stranger. He 
adopted Trajan, then about forty years of age, and who 
commanded a powerful army in the Lower Germany ; and 
immediately, by a decree of the senate, declared him his 
colleague and successor in the empire. 36 It is sincerely to 
be lamented, that whilst we are fatigued with the disgustful 
relation of Nero's crimes and follies, we are reduced to 
collect the actions of Trajan from the glimmerings of an 
abridgment, or the doubtful light of a panegyric. There 
remains, however, one panegyric far removed beyond the 
suspicion of flattery. Above two hundred and fifty years 
after the death of Trajan, the senate, in pouring out the 
customary acclamations on the accession of a new emperor, 
wished that he might surpass the felicity of Augustus and 
the virtue of Trajan. 37 

We may readily believe, that the father of his country 
hesitated whether he ought to intrust the various and doubt- 
ful character of his kinsman Hadrian with sovereign power. 
In his last moments, the arts of the empress Plotina either 
fixed the irresolution of Trajan, or boldly supposed a ficti- 
tious adoption ; 38 the truth of which could not be safely 
disputed, and Hadrian was peaceably acknowledged as his 
lawful successor. Under his reign, as has been already 
mentioned, the empire flourished in peace and prosperity. 
He encouraged the arts, reformed the laws, asserted military 
discipline, and visited all his provinces in person. His vast 
and active genius was equally suited to the most enlarged 
views, and the minute details of civil policy. But the 
ruling passions of his soul were curiosity and vanity. As 
they prevailed, and as they were attracted by different 

30 Dion, 1. lxviii. p. 1121. Plin. Sscund. in Panegyric. 

3 " Felkior Augusto, melioh Th.vjaxo. Eutroj. Via. 5. 

33 Dion (I. Lux. p. 124'J) affirms the whole to have been a fiction, on ths author- 
ity of his lather, who, being governor of the province where Trajan died, h;;d 
very good opportunities of sifting this mysterious transaction. Yet Dodwell 
(Praelect. Camden, xvii.) has maintained that Hadrian was called to the certain 
hope of the empire, during the lifetime of Trajan. 


objects, Hadrian was, by turns, an excellent prince, a ridic- 
ulous sophist, and a jealous tyrant. The general tenor of 
his conduct deserved praise for its equity and moderation. 
Yet in the first days of his reign he put to death -four 
consular senators, his personal enemies, and men who had 
been judged worthy of empire; and the tediousness of a 
painful illness rendered him, at last, peevish and cruel. The 
senate doubted whether they should pronounce him a god 
or a tyrant ; and the honors decreed to his memory were 
granted to the prayers of the pious Antoninus. 39 

The caprice of Hadrian influenced his choice of a succes- 
sor. After revolving in his mind several men of distinguished 
merit, whom he esteemed and hated, he adopted JElius Verus, 
a gay and voluptuous nobleman, recommended by uncommon 
beauty to the lover of Antinous. 40 But whilst Hadrian was 
delighting himself with his own applause, and the acclama- 
tions of the soldiers, whose consent had been secured by an 
immense donative, the new Caesar 41 was ravished from his 
embraces by an untimely death. He left only one son. 
Hadrian commended the boy to the gratitude of the Anto- 
nines. He was adopted by Pius ; and, on the accession of 
Marcus, was invested with an equal share of sovereign power. 
Among the many vices of this younger Verus, he possessed 
one virtue; a dutiful reverence "for his wiser colleague, to 
whom he willingly abandoned the ruder cares of empire. 
The philosophic emperor dissembled his follies, lamented 
his early death, and cast a decent veil over his memory. 

As soon as Hadrian's passion was either gratified or disap- 
pointed, he resolved to deserve the thanks of posterity, by 
placing the most exalted merit on the Roman throne. His 
discerning eye easily discovered a senator about fifty years 
of age, blameless in all the offices of life; and a youth of 
about seventeen, whose riper years opened a fair prospect 
of every virtue : the elder of these was declared the son and 
successor of Hadrian, on condition, however, that he him- 
self should immediately adopt the younger. The two Anto- 
nines (for it is of them that we are now speaking) governed 
the Roman world forty-two years, with the same invariable 

39 TMon (l. lxx. p. 1171). Aurel. Victor. 

40 The deification of Antinous, his medals, statues, temples, city, oracles, and 
constellation are well known, and still dishonor the memory of Hadrian. Yet 
we may remark, that of the first fifteen emperors, Claudius was tlie only one 
whose taste in love was entirely correct. For the honors of Antinous, see Span- 
heim, Commentaire sur les Caesars tie .Tulien, p. 80. 

41 Hist. August, p. 13. Aurelius Victor in Epitom. 


spirit of wisdom and virtue. Although Pius had two sous, 42 
he preferred the welfare of Rome to the interest of his 
family, gave his daughter Faustina in marriage to young 
Mareus, obtained from the senate the tribunitian and pro- 
consular powers, and with a noble disdain, or rather ignorance 
of jealousy, associated him. to all the labors of government. 
Marcus, on the other hand, revered the character of his 
benefactor, loved him as a parent, obeyed him as his sover- 
eign, 43 and, after he was no more, regulated his own admin- 
istration by the example and maxims of his predecessor. 
Their united reigns are possibly the only period of history 
in which the happiness of a great people was the sole object 
of government. 

Titus Antoninus Pius has been justly denominated a 
second Numa. The same love of religion, justice, and 
peace, was the distinguishing characteristic of both princes. 
But the situation of the latter opened a much larger field 
for the exercise of those virtues. Numa could only prevent 
a few neighboring villages from plundering each other's 
harvests. Antoninus diffused order and tranquillity over 
the greatest part of the earth. His reign is marked by the 
rare advantage of furnishing very few materials for history ; 
which is, indeed, little more than the register of the crimes, 
follies, and misfortunes of 'mankind. In private life, he was 
an amiable, as well as a good man. The native simplicity 
of his virtue was a stranger to vanity or affectation. He 
enjoyed with moderation the conveniences of his fortune, 
and the innocent pleasures of society; 44 and the benevo- 
lence of his soul displayed itself in a cheerful serenity of 

The virtue of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus was of a 

42 Without the help of medals and inscriptions, we should be ignorant of this 
fact, so honorable to the memory of Pius.* 

4J . During the twenty-threj years of Pius's reign. Marcus was only two nights 
absent from the palace, and even those were at different times. Hist. August. 
p. 23. 

■** He. was fond of the theatre, and not insensible to the charms of the fair sex. 
Marcus Antoninus, i. l(j. Hist. August, pp. 20, 21. Julian in Osesar. 

* Gibbon attributes to Antoninus Pius a merit which he either did not possess, 
or w;is not in a situation to display. 1. He was adopted only on the condition 
that he would adopt, in his turn, Marcus Aurelius and L. Verus. 2. His two sons 
died children, and one of them, M. Galerius, alone, appears to have survived, for 
a few years, his father's coronation. Gibbon is also mistaken, when he says (note 
42) that "without the help of medals and inscriptions, we should be ignorant 
that Antoninus had two sons." Capitolinus says expressly (c. 1), Filii mares 
duo, duae fo?minae; we only owe their names to the medals. Pagi. Cont. Baron, i. 
33, edit. Paris.— W. 


severer and more laborious kind. 45 It was the well-earned 
harvest of many a learned conference, of many a patient 
lecture, and many a midnight lucubration. At the age of 
twelve years he embraced the rigid system of the Stoics, 
which taught him to submit his body to his mind, his pas- 
sions to hi i reason; to consider virtue as the only good, vice 
as the only evil, all tilings external as things indifferent. 46 
His meditations, composed in the tumult of a camp, are 
still extant; and he even condescended to give lessons of 
philosophy, in a more public manner than was perhaps con- 
sistent with the modesty of a sage, or the dignity of an 
emperor. 47 But his life was the noblest commentary on the 
precepts of Zeno. He was severe to himself, indulgent to 
the imperfection of others, just and beneficent to all man- 
kind. Pie regretted that Avidius Cassius, who excited a 
rebellion in Syria, had disappointed him, by a voluntary 
death,* of the pleasure of converting an enemy into a 
friend; and he justified the sincerity of that sentiment by 
moderatino; the zeal of the senate against the adherents of 
the traitor. 48 War he detested, as the disgrace and calamity 
of human nature ; $ but when the necessity of a just defence 
called upon him to take up arms, he readily exposed his 
person to eight winter campaigns on the frozen banks of 
the Danube, the severity of which was at last fatal to the 
weakness of his constitution. His memory was revered by 
a grateful posterity, and above a century after his death, 

45 The enemies of Marcus charged him with hypocrisy, and with a want of that 
simplicity which distinguished Pius and even Verus (Hist. August. 6, 34). This 
suspicion, unjust as it was, may serve to account for the superior applause be- 
stowed upon personal qualifications in preference to the social virtues. Even 
Marcus Antoninus has been called a hypocrite ; but the wildest skepticism never 
insinuated that Caesar might possibly be a coward, or Tully a fool. Wit and valor 
are qualifications more easily ascertained than humanity 6." the love of justice. 

40 Tacitus has characterized, in a few words, the principles of the portico : 
Doctores sapiential secutus est, qui sola bona quae honesta, mala tantum quae tur- 
pia; potentiam. nobilitatem, cseteraque extra animum, neque bonis neque malis 
adnumerant. Tacit. Hist. iv. 5. 

47 Before be went on the second expedition against the Germans, he read lec- 
tures of philosophy to the Roman people, during three days. He had already 
done the same in the cities of Greece and Asia. Hist. August, in Cassio, c. 3. 

48 Dion, 1. lxxi. p. 1190. Hist. August, in Avid. Cassio. t 

* Cassius was murdered by his own partisans. Vulcat. Gallic, in Cassio, c. 7. 
Dion, lxxi. c. 27.— W. 

t See one of the newly-discovered passages of Dion Cas-ius. Marcus wrote to 
the senate, who urged the execution of the partisans of Cassius, in these words : 
" I entreat and beseech you to preserve my reign unstained by senatorial blood. 
None of your order must perish either by your desire or mine." Mai. Fragm. 
Vatican, ii. p. 224.— M. 

t Marcus would not accept the services of any of the barbarian allies who 
crowded to his standard in the war against Avidius Cassius- " Barbarians," he 
said, with wi^e but vain sagacity, '• must not become acquainted with the dissen- 
sions of the Romui people." Mai. Fragm. Vatican, i. 221.— M. 



many persons preserved the image of Marcus Antoninus 
among those of their household gods. 49 

If a man were called to fix the period in the history of 
the world during which the condition of the human race 
was most happy and prosperous, he would, without hesita- 
tion, name that which elapsed from the death of Domitian 
to the accession of Commodus. The vast extent of the 
Roman empire was governed by absolute power, under the 
guidance of virtue and wisdom. The armies were restrain- 
ed by the firm but gentle hand of four successive emperors, 
whose characters and authority commanded involuntary 
respect. The forms of the civil administration were care- 
fully preserved by Xerva, Trajan, Hadrian, and the An- 
tonines, Avho delighted in the image of liberty, and were 
pleased with considering themselves as the accountable 
ministers of the laws. Such princes deserved the honor of 
restoring the republic, had the Romans of their days been 
capable of enjoying a rational freedom. 

The labors of these monarchs were overpaid by the im- 
mense reward that inseparably waited on their success ; by 
the honest pride of virtue, and by the exquisite delight of 
beholding the general happiness of which they were the 
authors. A just but melancholy reflection imbittered, how- 
ever, the noblest of human enjoyments. They must often 
have recollected the instability of a happiness which de- 
pended on the character of a single man. The fatal moment 
was perhaps approaching, when some licentious youth, or 
some jealous tyrant, would abuse, to the destruction, that 
absolute power, which they had exerted for the benefit of 
their people. The ideal restraints of the senate and the 
laws might serve to display the virtues, but could never 
correct the vices, of the emperor. The military force was 
a blind and irresistible instrument of oppression ; and the 
corruption of Roman manners WQuld always supply flatter- 
ers eager to applaud, and ministers prepared to serve, the 
fear or the avarice, the lust or the cruelty, of their masters. 

These gloomy apprehensions had been already justified 
by the experience of the Romans. The annals of the em- 
perors exhibit a strong and various picture of human nature, 
which we should vainly seek among the mixed and doubtful 
characters of modern history. In the conduct of those 
.monarchs we may trace the utmost lines of vice and virtue ; 
the most exalted perfection, and the meanest degeneracy of 

49 Hist. August, in Marc. Antonin. c. 18. ■ . 


our own species. The golden age of Trajan and the An- 
fconines had been preceded by an age of iron. It is almost 
superfluous to enumerate tie unworthy successors of Augus- 
tus. Their unparalleled vices, and the splendid theatre on 
which they were acted, have saved them from oblivion. 
The dark, unrelenting Tiberius, the furious Caligula, the 
feeble Claudius, the profligate and cruel Nero, the beastly 
Vitellius, 50 and the timid, inhuman Domitian, are con- 
demned to everlasting infamy. During fourscore years (ex- 
cepting only the short and doubtful respite of Vespasian's 
reign) 51 Home groaned beneath an unremitting tyranny, 
which exterminated the ancient families of the republic, 
and was fatal to almost every virtue and every talent that 
arose in that unhappy period. 

Under the reign of these monsters, the slavery of the 
Romans was accompanied with two peculiar circumstances, 
the one occasioned by their former liberty, the other by 
their extensive conquests, which rendered their condition 
more comj)letely wretched than that of the victims of 
tyranny in any other age or country. From these causes 
were derived, 1. The exquisite sensibility of the sufferers ; 
and, 2. The impossibility of escaping from the hand of the 

I. When Persia was governed by the descendants of 
Sefi, a race of princes whose wanton cruelty often stained 
their divan, their table, and their bed, with the blood of 
their favorites, there is a saying recorded of a young noble- 
man, that he never departed from the sultan's presence, 
without satisfying himself whether his head was still on his 
shoulders. The experience of every day might almost 
justify the scepticism of Rustan. 52 Yet the fatal sword, 
suspended above him by a single thread, seems not to have 
disturbed the slumbers, or interrupted the tranquillity, of 
the Persian. The monarch's frown, he well knew, could 
level him with the dust ; but the stroke of lightning or 
apoplexy might be equally fatal ; and it was the part of a 
wise man to forget the inevitable calamities of human life 

50 Vitellius consumed in mere eating at least six millions of our money in 
about seven months. It i ; not easy to express lus vices with dignity, or evende- 
cency. Tacitus fairly calls him a hog, but it i.s by substituting for a coarse word 
a very fine image. " At Viteilias, umbraeulis hortorum abditus, ut ignava ani- 
malia, quibus si cibum suggcras, jacent torpentque, pra3terita, instantia, futura- 
pari oblivione-dimiserat. Atque ilium nemore Aricino desidem et marcentem," 
&,c. Ta it. Hist.iii. 36, ii. 95. Sueton. in Vitell.c. 13. Dion Cassius 1. lxv. p. 1062. 

&1 The execution of Ilelvidius Priseus, and of the virtuous Eponina, disgraced 
the reign of Vespasian. 
• " 52 Voyage de ehardin en Perse, vol. iii. p. 293. 


in the enjoyment of the fleeting hour. He was dignified 
with the appellation of the king's slave ; had, perhaps, been 
purchased from obscure parents, in a country which he had 
never known ; and was trained up from his infancy in the 
severe discipline of the seraglio. 53 His name, his wealth, 
his honors, were the gift of a master, who might, without 
injustice, resume what he had bestowed. Rustan's knowl- 
edge, if he possessed any, could only serve to confirm his 
habits by prejudices. His language afforded not words for 
any form of government, except absolute monarchy. The 
history of the East informed him that such had ever been 
the condition of mankind. 54 The Koran, and the inter- 
preters of that divine book, inculcated to him that the sul- 
tan was the descendant of the prophet, and the vicegerent 
of heaven ; that patience was the first virtue of a Mussul- 
man, and unlimited obedience the great duty of a subject. 

The minds of the Romans were very differently prepared 
for slavery. Oppressed beneath the weight of their own 
corruption and of military violence, they for a long while 
preserved the sentiments, or at least the ideas, of their free- 
born ancestors. The education of Helvidius and Thrasea, 
of Tacitus and Pliny, was the same as that of Cato and 
Cicero. From Grecian philosophy, they had imbibed the 
justest and most liberal notions of the dignity of human 
nature, and the origin of civil society. The history of their 
own country had taught them to revere a free, a virtuous, 
and a victorious commonwealth ; to abhor the successful 
crimes of Caesar and Augustus ; and inwardly to despise 
those tyrants whom they adored with the most abject flat- 
tery. As magistrates and senators, they were admitted 
into the great council, which had once dictated laws to the 
earth, whose name still gave a sanction to the acts of the 
monarch, and whose authority was so often prostituted to 
the vilest purposes of tyranny. Tiberius, and those emper- 
ors who adopted hij maxims, attempted to disguise their 
murders by the formalities of justice, and perhaps enjoyed 
a secret pleasure in rendering the senate their accomplice 
as well as their victim. By this assembly, the last of the 
Romans were condemned for imaginary crimes and real 

53 The practice of raising slaves to the great offices of state is still more com- 
mon amoiiir the Turks than among the Persians. The miserable countries of 
Georgia and Circassia supply rulers to the greatest part of the hast. 

w Chardin savs, that European travellers have diffused among the Persians 
some ideas of the freedom and mildness of our governments. They have done 
them a very ill office. 


virtues. Their infamous accusers assumed the language of 
independent patriots, who arraigned a dangerous citizen 
before the tribunal of his country ; and the public service 
was rewarded by riches and honors. 55 The servile judges 
professed to assert the majesty of the commonwealth, vio- 
lated in the person of its first magistrate, 56 whose clemency 
they most applauded when they trembled the most at his 
inexorable and impending cruelty. 57 The tyrant beheld 
their baseness with just contempt, and encountered their 
secret sentiments of detestation with sincere and avowed 
hatred for the whole body of the senate. 

II. The division of Europe into a number of indepen- 
dent states, connected, however, with each other by the 
general resemblance of religion, language, and manners, is 
productive of the most beneficial consequences to the liberty 
of mankind. A modern tyrant, who should find no resist- 
ance either in his own breast, or in his people, would soon 
experience a gentle restraint from the example of his equals, 
the dread of present censure, the advice of his allies, and 
the apprehension of his enemies. The object of his dis- 
pleasure, escaping from the narrow limits of his dominions, 
would easily obtain, in a happier climate, a secure refuge, a 
new fortune adequate to his merit, the freedom of com- 
plaint, and perhaps the means of revenge. But the empire 
of the Romans filled the world, and when that empire fell 
into the hands of a single person, the world became a safe 
and dreary prison for his enemies. The slave of Imperial 
despotism, whether he was condemned to drag his gilded 
chain in Rome and the senate, or to wear out a life of exile 
on the barren rock of Seriphus, or the frozen banks of the 
Danube, expected his fate in silent ^despair. 58 To resist was 

63 They alleged the example of Seipio and Cato (Tacit. Armal. iii. 6G). Marcel- 
lus and Crispus Vibius had acquired two millions and a half under Nero. 
Their wealth, which aggravated their crimes, protected them under Vespasian. 
See Tacit. Hist. iv. 43. Dialog, de Orator, c. 8. For one accusation, Regulus, 
the just object of Pliny's satire, received from the senate the consular ornaments 
and a present of sixty thousand pounds. 

55 The crime of majesty wa3 formerly a treasonable offence against the Ro- 
man people. As tribunes of the people, Augustus and Tiberius applied it to 
their own persons, and extended it to an infinite latitude.* 

'•>• After th:j virtuous and unforttmate widow of Germanicus had been put to 
death, Tiberius received the thanks of the senate for his clemency. She had not 
been publicly strangled ; nor was the body drawn with a hook to the Gemoniae, 
where those of common malefactors were exposed. See Tacit. Annal. \i. 25. 
Sueton. in Tiberio, c. 53. 

C8 Seriphus was a small rocky island in the iEgean Sea. the inhabitants of 
which were despised for their ignorance and obscurity. The place of Ovid's 

* It was Tiberi'is, not Augustus, who first took in this sense the words crimen 
ltesse majestatis. Bachii Trajanus, 27. — W. 


fatal, and it was impossible to fly. On every side lie was 
encompassed with a vast extent of sea and land, which he 
could never hope to traverse without being discovered, 
seized, and restored to his irritated master. Beyond the 
frontiers, his anxious view could discover nothing, except 
the ocean, inhospitable deserts, hostile tribes of barbarians, 
of fierce manners and unknown language, or dependent 
kings, who would gladly purchase the Emperor's protection 
by the sacrifice of an obnoxious fugitive. 59 " Wherever you 
are," said Cicero to the exiled Marcellus, " remember that 
you are equally within the power of the conqueror." co 

exile is well known, by Ins just, but unmanly lamentations. It should seem 
that he only received an order to leave Uome in so many days, and to transport 
himself to Tomi. Guards and jailers were unnecessary. 

° J Under Tiberius, a Koman knight attempted to fly to the Partliians. He 
was stopped in the straits of Sicily ; but so little danger did there appear in the 
example, that the most jealous of tyrants disdained to punish it. Tacit. Annal. 
vi. 1-i. 

Cu Cicero ad Familiares, iv. 7. 





The mildness of Marcus, which the rigid discipline of 
the Stoics was unable to eradicate, formed, at the same 
time, the most amiable, and the only defective, part of his 
character. His excellent understanding was often deceived 
by the unsuspecting goodness of his heart. Artful men, 
who study the passions of princes, and conceal their own, 
approached his person in the disguise of philosophic sanctity, 
and acquired riches and honors by affecting to despise 
them. 1 His excessive indulgence to his brother,* his wife, 
and his son, exceeded the bounds of private virtue, and be- 
came a public injury, by the example and consequences of 
their vices. 

Faustina, the daughter of Pius and the wife of Marcus, 
has been as much celebrated for her gallantries as for her 
beauty. The grave simplicity of the philosopher was ill 
calculated to engage her wanton levity, or to fix that un- 
bounded passion for variety, which often discovered per- 
sonal merit in the meanest of mankind. 2 The Cupid of the 
ancients was, in general, a very sensual deity ; and the 
amours of an empress, as they exact on her side the plainest 
advances, are seldom susceptible of much sentimental deli- 
cacy. Marcus was the only man in the empire who seemed 
ignorant or insensible of the irregularities of Faustina; 
which, according to the prejudices of every age, reflected 
some disgrace on the injured husband. He promoted several 

1 See the complaints of Avidius Cassius, Hist. August, p. 45- These are, it is 
true, the complaints of faction ; hut even faction exaggerates, rather than in- 

- Faustinam satis constat apud Cajetam conditiones sibi et nauticas et gladia- 
torias, elegisse. Hist. August, p. ?A). Lampridius explains the sort of merit 
which Faustina chose, and the conditions which she exacted. Hist. August. 
p. 102. 

* His brother by adoption, and his colleague, L. Verus. Marcus Aurelius had 
no other brother.— W. 


of her lovers to posts of honor and profit, 3 and, during a con- 
nection of thirty years, invariably gave her proofs of the 
most tender confidence, and of a respect which ended not 
witu her life. In his Meditations, he thanks the gods, who 
had bestowed on him a wife so faithful, so gentle, and of 
such a wonderful simplicity of manners. 4 The obsequious 
senate, at his earnest request, declared her a goddess. She 
was represented in her temples, with the attributes of Juno, 
Venus, and Ceres; and it was decreed, that, on the day of 
their nuptials, the youth of either sex should pay their vows 
before the altar of their chaste patroness. 5 

The monstrous vices of the son have cast a shade on the 
purity of the father's virtues. It has been objected to Mar- 
cus, that he sacrificed the happiness of t millions to a fond 
partiality for a worthless boy ; and that he chose a successor 
in his own family, rather than in the republic. Nothing, 
however, was neglected by the anxious father, and by the 
men of virtue and learning whom he summoned to his as- 
sistance, to expand the narrow mind of young Commodus, 
to correct his growing vices, and to render him worthy of 
the throne for which he was designed. But the power of 
instruction is seldom of much efficacy, except in those happy 
dispositions where it is almost superfluous. The distasteful 
lesson of a grave philosopher was, in a moment, obliterated 
by the whisper of a profligate favorite ; and Marcus himself 
blasted the fruits of this labored education, bv admitting: his 
son, at the age of fourteen or fifteen, to a full participation 
of the Imperial power. He lived but four years afterwards : 
but he lived long enough to repent a rash measure, which 
raised the impetuous youth above the restraint of reason 
and authority. 

Most of the crimes which disturb the internal peace of 
society are produced by the restraints which the necessary 
but unequal laws of property have imposed on the appetites 
of mankind, by confining to a few the possession of those 
objects that are coveted by many. Of all our passions and 
appetites, the love of power is of the most imperious and 
unsociable nature, since the pride of one man requires the 

3 Hist. August, p. 34. 

4 Meditat. 1. i. The world has laughed at the credulity of Marcus ; but Mad- 
am Dacier assures us (and we may credit a lady), that the husband will always be 
deceived, if the wife condescends to dissemble. 

5 Dion Cassius, 1. lxxi. [c. 31] p. 1195. Hist. August, p. 33. Commentaire de 
Spanheim but les Caesars de Julien, p. 289. The deification of Faustina is the 
only defect which Julian's criticism is able to discover in the all-accomplished 
character of Marcus, 


submission of the multitude. In the tumult of civil discord, 
the laws of society lose their force, and their place is seldom 
supplied by those of humanity. The ardor of contention, 
the pride of victory, the despair of success, the memory of 
past injuries, and the fear of future dangers, all contribute 
to inflame the mind, and to silence the voice of pity. From 
such motives almost every page of history has been stained 
with civil blood ; but these motives will not account for the 
unprovoked cruelties of Commodus, who had nothing to 
wish, and everything to enjoy. The beloved son of Marcus 
succeeded to his father, amidst the acclamations of the 
senate and armies ; 6 and when he ascended the throne, the 
happy youth saw round him neither competitor to remove, 
nor enemies to punish. In this calm, elevated station, it 
Avas surely natural that he should prefer the love of man- 
kind to their detestation, the mild glories of his five prede- 
cessors to the ignominious fate of Nero and Domitian. 

Yet Commodus was not, as he has been represented, a 
tiger born with an insatiate thirst of human blood, and capa- 
ble, from his infancy, of the most inhuman actions. 7 Na- 
ture had formed him of a Aveak rather than a wicked dis- 
position. His simplicity and timidity rendered him the 
slave of his attendants, who gradually corrupted his mind. 
His cruelty, which at first obeyed the dictates of others, de- 
generated into habit, and at length became the ruling passion 
of his soul. 8 

Upon the death of his father, Commodus found himself 
embarrassed with the command of a great army, and the 
conduct of a difficult war against the Quadi and Marco- 
manni. 9 The servile and profligate youths whom Marcus 
had banished soon regained their station and influence 
about the new emperor. They exaggerated the hardships 
and dangers of a campaign in the wild countries beyond the 
Danube ; and they assured the indolent prince that the ter- 
ror of his name and the arms of his lieutenants would be 
sufficient to complete the conquest of the dismayed barba- 
rians, or to impose such conditions as were more advanta- 

6 Commodus was the first Porphyrogenitus (born since his father's accession 
to the throne). By a new strain of flattery, the Egyptian medals date by the 
years of his life ; as if they were synonymous to those of his reign. Tillemont, 
Hi^t. de> Empereurs, to.ii. ii. p. 752. 

7 Hist. August, p. 46. 

8 Dion Cassias, 1. lxxii. p. 1203. 

9 According to Tertullian (Apolog. c. 25), he died at Sirmium. But the situa- 
tion of Vindobona, or Vienna, where both the Victors place his death, is better 
adapted to the operations of the war against the Marcomanni and Quadi. 


geous than any conquest. By a dexterous application to his 
sensual appetites, they compared the tranquillity, the splen- 
dor, the refined pleasures of Rome with the tumult of a 
Pannonian camp, which afforded neither leisure nor mate- 
rials for luxury. 10 Commodus listened to the pleasing ad- 
vice, but whilst he hesitated between his own inclination 
and the awe which he still retained for his father's counsel- 
lors, the summer insensibly elapsed, and his triumphal entry 
into the capital was deferred till the autumn. His graceful 
person, 11 popular address, and imagined virtues, attracted 
the public favor ; the honorable peace which he had recently 
granted to the barbarians diffused a universal joy ; u his 
impatience to revisit Rome was fondly ascribed to the love 
of his country ; and his dissolute course of amusements was 
faintly condemned in a prince of nineteen years of age. 

During the three first years of his reign, the forms, and 
even the spirit, of the old administration were maintained 
by those faithful counsellors, to whom Marcus had recom- 
mended his son, and for whose wisdom and integrity Corn- 
modus still entertained a reluctant esteem. The young 
prince and his profligate favorites revelled in all the license 
of sovereign power; but his hands were yet unstained with 
blood ; and he had even displayed a generosity of sentiment, 
which might perhaps ha\ .. ripened into solid virtue. 13 A 
fatal incident decided his fluctuating character. 

One evening, as the emperor was returning to the 
palace through a dark and narrow portico in the amphithea- 
tre, 14 an assassin, who waited his passage, rushed upon him 
with a drawn sword, loudly exclaiming, " The senate sends 
you this." The menace prevented the deed ; the assassin 
was seized by the guards, and immediately revealed the 
authors of the conspiracy. It had been formed, not in the 
state, but within the walls of the palace. Lucilla, the em- 
peror's sister, and widow of Lucius Verus, impatient of the 
second rank, and jealous of the reigning empress, had armed 
the murderer against her brother's life. She had not ven- 
tured to communicate the black design to her second hus- 

10 Herodian, 1. i. p. 12. 

n Herodian, 1. i. p. 16. 

12 This universal joy is well described (from the medMs as well as historians) 
by Mr. Woiton, Hist, of Koine, pp. 192, 1<J3. 

li Manilius, the confidential secretary of Avidius Cassius, was discovered after 
he had lain concealed several years. The emperor nobly relieved the public 
anxiety by refusing to see him, and burning his papers without opening them. 
Dion Cassius, 1. lxxii. p. 1209. 

14 See Maflei degli Amphitheatri, p. 12G. 


band, Claudius Pompeianus, a senator of distinguished 
merit and unshaken loyalty ; but among the crowd of her 
lovers (for she imitated the manners of Faustina) she found 
men of desperate fortunes and wild ambition, who were 
prepared to serve her more violent, as well as her tender 
passions. The conspirators experienced the rigor of jus- 
tice, and the abandoned princess was punished, first with 
exile, and afterwards with death. 15 

But the words of the assassin sunk deep into the mind 
of Commodus, and left an indelible impression of fear and 
hatred against the whole body of the senate.* Those whom 
he had dreaded as importunate ministers, he now suspected 
as secret enemies. The Delators, a race of men discouraged, 
and almost extinguished, under the former reigns, again be- 
came formidable, as soon as they discovered that the emperor 
w r as desirous of finding disaffection and treason in the 
senate. That assembly, whom Marcus had ever considered 
as the great council of the nation, was composed of the 
most distinguished of the Romans ; and distinction of every 
kind soon became criminal. The possession of wealth stim- 
ulated the diligence of the informers ; rigid virtue implied 
a tacit censure of the irregularities of Commodus ; important 
services implied a dangerous superiority of merit ; and the 
friendship of the father always insured the aversion of the 
son. Suspicion was equivalent to proof; trial to condem- 
nation. The execution of a considerable senator was 
attended with the death of all who might lament or revenge 
his fate; and when Commodus had once tasted human 
blood, he became incapable of pity or remorse. 

Of these innocent victims of tyranny, none died more 
lamented than the two brothers of the Quintilian family, 
Maximus and Condianus ; whose fraternal love has saved 
their names from oblivion, and endeared their memory to 
posterity. Their studies and their occupations, their pursuits 
and their pleasures,were still the same. In the enjoyment 
of a great estate, they never admitted the idea of a separate 
interest : some fragments are now extant of a treatise 
which they composed in common ; f and in every action of 
life it was observed that their two bodies were animated by 

15 Dion, 1. lxxii. p. 1205. Herodian, 1. i. p. 1G. Hist. August, p. 46. 

* The conspirators were senators, even the assassin himself. Herod, i. 31. 

t This work was on agriculture, and is often quoted by later writers. See P. 
Needham Proleg. ad Geoponic. Oamb. 1704. — W. 


one soul. The Ante-nines, who valued their virtues, and 
delighted in their union, raised them, in the same year, to 
the consulship ; and Marcus afterwards intrusted to their 
joint care the civil administration of Greece, and a great 
military command, in which they obtained a signal victory 
over the Germans. The kind cruelty of Commodus united 
them in death. 10 

The tyrant's rage, after having shed the noblest blood of 
the senate, at length recoiled on the principal instrument of 
his cruelty. Whilst Commodus was immersed in blood 
and luxury, he devolved the detail of the public business on 
Perennis, a servile and ambitious minister, who had obtained 
his post by the murder of his predecessor, but who possessed 
a considerable share of vigor and ability. By acts of extor- 
tion, and the forfeited estates of the nobles sacrificed to his 
avarice, he had accumulated an immense treasure. The 
Pra3torian guards were under his immediate command ; and 
his son, who already discovered a military genius, was at the 
head of the Illyrian legions. Perennis aspired to the empire ; 
or what, in the eyes of Commodus, amounted to the same 
crime, he was capable of aspiring to it, had he not been 
prevented, surprised, and put to death. The fall of a 
minister is a very trifling incident in the general history of 
the empire ; but it was hastened by an extraordinary cir- 
cumstance, which proved hew much the nerves of discipline 
were already relaxed. The legions of Britain, discontented 
with the administration of Perennis, formed a deputation 
of fifteen hundred select men, with instructions to march to 
Rome, and lay their complaints before the emperor. These 
military petitioners, by their own determined behavior, by 
inflaming the divisions of the guards, by exaggerating the 
strength of the British army, and by alarming the fears of 
Commodus, exacted and obtained the minister's death, as 
the only redress of their grievances. 17 This presumption of 

16 In a note upon the Augustan History, Casaubon has collected a number of 
particulars concerning these celebrated brothers. See p. 96 of his learned com- 

i? Dion, 1. lxxii. p. 1210. Herodian,l. i. p. 22. Hist. August, p. 4S. Dion gives 
a much less odious character of Perennis, than the other historians. His moder- 
ation is almost a pledge of his veracity. * 

* Gibbon praises Dion for the moderation with which he speaks of Perennis : 
he follows, nevertheless, in his own narrative, Herodian and Lampridius. Dion 
speaks of Perennis not only with moderation, b:it with admi. atio:i ; he represents 
him as a great man, virtuous in his life, and blameless in his death : perhaps he 
miy b^ suspected of partiality; but it is singular that Gibbon, having adopted, 
from Herouian and Lampridius, their judgment on this minister, follows Dion's 
improbable account of his death. What likelihood, in fact, that fifteen hundred 


a distant army, and their discovery of the weakness of 
government, was a sure presage of the most dreadful con- 

The negligence of the public administration was betrayed, 
soon afterwards, by a new disorder, which arose from the 
smallest beginnings. A spirit of desertion began to prevail 
among the troops : and the deserters, instead of seeking 
their safety in flight or concealment, infested the highways. 
Maternus, a private soldier, of a daring boldness above his 
station, collected those bands of robbers into a little army, 
set open the prisons, invited the slaves to assert their free- 
dom, and plundered with impunity the rich and defenceless 
cities of Gaul and Spain. The governors of the provinces, 
who had long been the spectators, and perhaps the partners, 
of his depredations, were at length roused from their supine 
indolence by the threatening commands of the emperor. 
Maternus found that he was encompassed, and foresaw that 
he must be overpowered. A great effort of despair was his 
last resource. He ordered his followers to disperse, to pass 
the Alps in small parties and various disguises, and to 
assemble at Rome, during the licentious tumult of the 
festival of Cybele. 18 To murder Commodus, and to ascend 
the vacant throne, was the ambition of no vulgar robber. 
His measures were so ably concerted that his concealed 
troops already filled the streets of Rome. The envy of an 
accomplice discovered and ruined this singular enterprise, 
in the moment when it was ripe for execution. 19 

Suspicious princes often promote the last of mankind 
from a vain persuasion, that those who have no dependence, 
except on their favor, will have no attachment, except to 

18 During. the second Punic war, the Romans imported from Asia the worship 
or the mother of the gods. Her festival, ilie Ahga/esid, began on the fourth of 
Aj>ril, and lasted six days. The streets were crowded with mad processions, the 
theatres with spectators, and ihe public tables with unbidden guests. Order and 
police were suspended, and pleasure was the only serious business of the city. 
See Ovid, de Fastis, 1. iv. 1^9, &c. 

m Herodian, 1. i. pp. 23, 28. 

men should have traversed Gaul and Italy, and have arrived at Rome without 
any understanding with the Praetorians, or without detection or opposition from 
Perennis tlie Prsetorian prsefect ? Gibbon, foreseeing, perhaps, this dirlieulty, 
has added, that the miliiary deputation inflamed the divisions of the guards ; but 
Dion says expressly that they did not reach Rome, but that the emperor went out 
to meet them : he even reproaches him for not ha\ ing opposed them with the 
guards, who were superior in number. Herodian relates that Commodus, hav- 
ing learned, from a soldier, the ambitious designs of Perennis and his son, caused 
them to be attacked and massacred by night. — G. from W. Dion's narrative is 
remarkably circumstantial, ami his authority higher than either of the other 
writers. He hints that Cleander, a new favorite^ had already undermined the 
influence of Perennis. — M. 


the person of their benefactor. Clean der, tlie successor of 
Perennis, was a Phrygian by birth; of a nation over whose 
stubborn, but servile temper, blows only could prevail. 20 
lie had been sent from his native country to Rome, in the 
capacity of a slave. As a slave he entered the Imperial 
palace, rendered himself useful to his master's passions, and 
rapidly ascended to the most exalted station which a subject 
could enjoy. His influence over the mind of Commodus 
was much greater than that of his predecessor ; for Cleander 
was devoid of any ability or virtue which could inspire the 
emperor with envy or distrust. Avarice was the reigning 
passion of his soul, and the great principle of his adminis- 
tration. The rank of Consul, of Patrician, of Senator, was 
exposed to public sale ; and it would have been considered 
as disaffection, if any one had refused to purchase these 
empty and disgraceful honors with the greatest part of his 
fortune. 21 In the lucrative provincial employments, the 
minister shared with the governor the spoils of the people. 
The execution of the laws was venal and arbitrary. A 
wealthy criminal might obtain not only the reversal of the 
sentence by which he was justly condemned, but might 
likewise inflict whatever punishment he j)leased on the 
accuser, the witnesses, and the judge. 

By these means, Cleander, in the space of three years, 
had accumulated more wealth than had ever yet been 
jDossessed by any freedman. 22 Commodus was perfectly 
satisfied with the magnificent presents which the artful 
courtier laid at his feet in the most seasonable moments. 
To divert the public envy, Cleander, under the emperor's 
name, erected baths, porticos, and places of exercise, for the 
use of the people. 23 He flattered himself that the Romans, 
dazzled and amused by this apparent liberality, would be 
less affected by the bloody scenes which Avere daily exhil* 
ited ; that they would forget the death of Byrrhus, a 
senator to whose superior merit the late emperor had granted 
one of his daughters; and that they would forgive the 
execution of Arrius Antoninus, the last representative of the 
name and virtues of the Antonines. The former, with 

20 Cicero pro Flacco, c. 27. 

21 One of these dear-bought promotions occasioned, a current bon mot, that 
Julius Solon was banished into the senate. 

22 Dion (1. lxxii. pp. 12, 13) observes, that no freedman had possessed riches 
equal to those of Oleander. The fortune of Pallas amounted, however, to up- 
wards of live and twenty hundred thousand pounds ; J\n- millies. 

-•* Dion, 1. lxxii. p L >. 12. 13. Kerodian, 1. i.p. 29. Hist. August, p. 52. These 
baths were situated near the Porla Capena. See Nardini lioma Antica* p. 79. 


more integrity than prudence, had attempted to disclose, to 
his brother-in-law, the true character of Oleander. An equi- 
table sentence pronounced by the latter, when proconsul of 
Asia, against a worthless creature of the favorite, proved 
fatal to him.' 24 After the fall of Perennis, the terrors of 
Commodus had, for a short time, assumed the appearance of 
a return to virtue. He repealed the most odious of his 
acts ; loaded his memory Avith the public execration, and 
ascribed to the pernicious counsels of that wicked minister 
"all the errors of his inexperienced youth. But his repent- 
ance lasted only thirty days ; and, under Oleander's tyranny, 
the administration of Perennis was often regretted. 

Pestilence and famine contributed to fill up the measure 
of the calamities of Rome. 25 The first could be only imputed 
to the just indignation of the gods; but a monopoly of corn, 
supported by the riches and power of the minister, was con- 
sidered as the immediate cause of the second. The popular 
discontent, after it had long circulated in whispers, broke 
out in the assembled circus. The people quitted their 
favorite amusements for the more delicious pleasure of 
revenge, rushed in crowds towards a palace in the suburbs, 
one of the emperor's retirements, and demanded, with angry 
clamors, the head of the public enemy. Oleander, who com- 
manded the Praetorian guards,' 20 ordered a body of cavalry 
to sally forth, and disperse the seditious multitude. The 
multitude fled with precipitation towards the city ; several 
were slain, and many more were trampled to death ; but 
when the cavalry entered the streets, their pursuit was 
checked by a shower of stones and darts from the roofs and 
windows of the houses. The foot guards, 27 who had been 
long jealous of the prerogatives and insolence of the Prae- 
torian cavalry, embraced the party of the people. The 

21 Hist. August, p. 48. 

25 Herodian", 1. i. p. 28. Dion, 1. lxxii. p. 1215. The latter says that two thou- 
sand persons died every day at Rome, during a considerable length of time. 

-' Tuncrjue primum ties proefacti praetoiio fm-re : inter^quos libertinus. 
From some remains or modesty, Cleander declined the title, whilst lie assumed 
the powers, of Praetorian prefect. As the other freedmen were stvled, from 
their several departments, a ralionibus, ah epi»1olU t Cleander called himself a 
purjione, as intrusted with the defence of his master's person. Salmasius and 
Casaubon seem to have talked very idly upon this passage.* 

-' Ol ttk -oAeuj? jrecTai o--p xncorat. Herodian, 1. i. p. 31. It is doubtful whether 
he means the Praetorian infantry, or the < ohortes urbanre, a body of six thousand 
men, but whose rank and discipline were not equal to their numbers. Keith 
Tillemont nor Wotton choose to decide this question, i 

* M. Guizot denies that Lampridius means Cleautfjr as pra-fect a pmdone. 
The Libertinus seems to me 10 mean him.— M. 

t It seems to me there is none. The passage of Ueruui»n is clear, and desig- 
nates the city -cohorts. Compare Dion, p. 7'JT.— W. 


tumult became a regular engagement, and threatened a 
general massacre. The Praetorians, at length, gave M'ay, 
oppressed with numbers ; and the tide of popular fury 
returned with redoubled violence aeainst the o-ates of the 
palace, where Commodus lay, dissolved in luxury, and alone 
unconscious of the civil war. It was death to approach his 
person with the unwelcome news. He would have perished 
in this supine security, had not two women, his eldest sister 
Fadilla, and Marcia, the most favored of his concubines, 
ventured to break into his presence. Bathed m tears, and 
with dishevelled hair, they threw themselves at his feet ; 
and with all the pressing eloquence of fear, discovered to 
the affrighted emperor the crimes of the minister, the rage 
of the people, and the impending ruin, which, in a few min- 
utes, would burst over his palace and person. Commodus 
started from his dream of pleasure, and commanded that 
the head of Cleander should be thrown out to the people. 
The desired spectacle instantly appeased the tumult ; and 
the son of Marcus might even yet have regained the affec- 
tion and confidence of his subjects. 28 

But every sentiment of virtue and humanity was extinct 
in the mind of Commodus. Whilst he thus abandoned the 
reins of empire to these unworthy favorites, he valued 
nothing in sovereign power, except the unbounded license 
of indulging his sensual appetites. His hours were spent in 
a seraglio of three hundred beautiful women, and as many 
boys, of every rank, and of every province ; and, wherever 
the arts of seduction proved ineffectual, the brutal lover had 
recourse to violence. The ancient historians' 29 have expa- 
tiated on these abandoned scenes of prostitution, which 
scorned every restraint of nature or modesty ; but it would 
not be easy to translate their too faithful descriptions into 
the decency of modern language. The intervals of lust 
were rilled up with the basest amusements. The influence 
of a polite a^e, and the labor of an attentive education, had 
never been able to infuse into his rude and brutish mind the 
least tincture of learning ; and he was the first of the Roman 
emperors totally devoid of taste for the pleasures of the 
understanding. Nero himself excelled, or affected to excel, 
in the elegant arts of music and poetry : nor should we 
despise his pursuits, had he not converted the pleasing 

2* Dion Capitis, 1. Ixxii. p. 1215. Herodian. 1. i. p. 32. HL-t. August, p. 48. 

w Sororibus suis cojiSUipratis. Ipsas concubinas suas sub oeufis suis stuprari 
jubebat. Nee iiTuentinm in se juvenuru carebat iiifamia, oinni parte corporis 
atque ore in sexum utrumque pollutus. Hist. Aug. p. 47. 


relaxation of a leisure hour into the serious business and 
ambition of his life. But Commodus, from his earliest 
infancy, discovered an aversion to whatever was rational or 
liberal, and a fond attachment to the amusements of the 
populace ; the sports of the circus and amphitheatre, the 
combats of gladiators, and the hunting of wild beasts. The 
masters in every branch of learning, whom Marcus provided 
for his son, were heard with inattention and disgust ; whilst 
the Moors and Parthians, who taught him to dart the javelin 
and to shoot with the bow, found a disciple who delighted 
in his application, and soon equalled the most skilful of his 
instructors in the steadiness of the eye and the dexterity of 
the hand. 

The servile crowd, whose fortune depended on their 
master's vices, applauded these ignoble pursuits. The per- 
fidious voice of flattery reminded him, that by exploits of 
the same nature, by the defeat of the Nemaean lion, and the 
slaughter of the wild boar of Erymanthus, the Grecian 
Hercules had acquired a place among the gods, and an 
immortal memory umong men. They only forgot to ob- 
serve, that, in the first ages of society, when the fiercer 
animals often dispute with man the possession of an unset- 
tled country, a successful war against those savages is one 
of the most innocent and beneficial labors of heroism. In 
the civilized state of the Roman empire, the wild beasts had 
long since retired from the face of man, and the neighbor- 
hood of populous cities. To surprise them in their solitary 
haunts, and to transport them to Home, that they might 
be slain in pomp by the hand of an emperor, was an enter- 
prise equally ridiculous for the prince and oppressive for 
the people. 39 Ignorant of these distinctions, Commodus 
eagerly embraced the glorious resemblance, and styled him- 
self (as we still read on his medals 31 ) the Roman Hercules * 

30 The African lions, when pressed by hunger, infested the open villages and 
cultivated country ; and they infested them with impunity. The royal beast wa.s 
reserved for the pleasures of the emperor and the capital; and the unfortunate 
peasant who killed one of them, though in his own defence, incurred a very 
heavy penalty. This extraordinary game-law was mitigated by Honorius, and 
finally repealed by Justinian. Codex Theodos. torn. v. p. 92, et Comment Gotho- 

31 Spanheim de Numismat. Dissertat. xii. torn. ii. p. 493. 

* Commodus placed his own head on the colossal statue of Hercules with the 
inscription, Lucius Commodus Hercules. The wits of Rome, according to a new 
fragment of Dion, published the following epigram, of which, like many other 
ancient jests, the point is not very clear : " Ai6? 7ra<"? KaAAii>i/co? 'Hpa^-A^?, ovk 
et/xi AeuKio?, dAA' avayndiovai jae." It seems to be a protect of the god against 
being confounded with the emperor. Mai. Fragm. Varican. ii. 225.— M. 



The club and the lion's hide were placed by the side of the 
throne, amongst the ensigns of sovereignty, and statues 
were erected, in which Commodus was represented in the 
character, and with the attributes, of the god whose valor 
and dexterity he endeavored to emulate in the daily course 
of his ferocious amusements. 32 

Elated with these praises, which gradually extinguished 
the innate sense of shame, Commodus resolved to exhibit 
before the eyes of the Roman people those exercises, which 
till then he had decently confined within the walls of his 
palace, and to the presence of a few favorites. On the 
appointed day, the various motives of flattery, fear, and 
curiosity, attracted to the amphitheatre an innumerable 
multitude of spectators ; and some degree of applause was 
deservedly bestowed on the uncommon skill of the Imperial 
performer. Whether he aimed at the head or heart of the 
animal, the wound was alike certain and mortal. With 
arrows whose point was shaped into the form of a crescent, 
Commodus often intercepted the rapid career, and cut 
asunder the long, bony neck of the ostrich. 33 A panther 
was let loose ; and the archer waited till he had leaped 
upon a trembling malefactor. In the same instant the shaft 
flew, the beast dropped dead, and the man remained unhurt. 
The dens of the amphitheatre disgorged at once a hundred 
lions: a hundred darts from the unerring hand of Com- 
modus laid them dead as they ran raging round the Arena. 
Neither the huge bulk of the elephant, nor the scaly hide of 
the rhinoceros, could defend them from his stroke. ^Ethi- 
opia and India yielded their most extraordinary produc- 
tions ; and several animals were slain in the amphitheatre, 
which had been seen only in the representations of art, or 
perhaps of fancy. 34 In all these exhibitions, the securest 

32 Dion, 1. lxxii. p. 1216. Hist. August, p. 49. 

33 The ostrich's neck is three feet long, and composed of seventeen vertebrae. 
See Button, Hist. Naturelle. 

■' A Commodus killed a camelopardalis or Giraffe (Dion, 1. lxxii. p. 1211), the 
tallest, the most gentle, and the most useless of the large quadrupeds. This sin- 
gular animal, a native only of the interior parts of Africa, has not been seen in 
Europe since the revival of letters ; and though M. de Buffon (Hist. Naturelle, 
torn, xiii.) has endeavored to describe, he has not ventured to delineate, the Gi- 

* The naturalists of our days have been more fortunate. London probably 
now contains more specimens of this animal than have b^en seen in Europe since 
the fall of the Roman empire, unless in the pleasure gardens of the emperor 
Frederic II., in Sicily, which possessed several. Frederic's collection of wild beasts 
were exhibited, for the popular amusement, in many parts of Italy. Kaumer, 
Geschichte der Hohenstaufen, v. iii. p. 571. Gibbon, moreover, is mistaken ; as 
a giraffe was presented to Lorenzo de Medici, either by the sultan of Egypt or the 
king of Tunis. Contemporary authorities are quoted in the old work, Gesner de 
Quadrupedibus, p. 162.— M. 


precautions were used to protect the person of the Roman 
Hercules from the desperate spring of any savage, who 
might possibly disregard the dignity of the emperor and 
tli2 sanctity of the god. 35 

But the meanest of the populace were affected with 
shame and indignation when they beheld their sovereign 
enter the lists as a gladiator, and glory in a profession which 
the laws and manners of the Romans had branded with the 
justest note of infamy. 36 He chose the habit and arms of 
the Secutor, whose combat with the Hetiarius formed one 
of the most lively scenes in the bloody sports of the amphi- 
theatre. The Secutor was armed with a helmet, sword, and 
buckler; his naked antagonist had only a large net and a 
trident ; with the one he endeavored to entangle, with the 
other to despatch his enemy. If he missed the first throw, 
he was obliged to fly from the pursuit of the Secutor, till lie 
had prepared his net for a second cast. 37 The emperor 
fought in this character seven hundred and thirty-five several 
times. These glorious achievements were carefully recorded 
in the public acts of the empire ; and that he might omit no 
circumstance of infamy, he received from the common fund 
of gladiators a stipend so exorbitant that it became a new 
and most ignominous tax upon the Roman people. 38 It may 
be easily supposed, that in these engagements the master of 
the world was always successful ; in the amphitheatre his 
victories were not often sanguinary ; but when he exercised 
his sl>ill in the school of gladiators, or his own palace, his 
wretched antagonists were frequently honored with a mortal 
wound from the hand of Commodus, and obliged to seal 
their flattery with their blood. M He now disdained the 
appellation of Hercules. The name of Paulus, a celebrated 
Secutor, was the only one which delighted his ear. It 
was inscribed on his colossal statues, and repeated in the 
redoubled acclamations 40 of the mournful and applauding 

35 Herodian, 1. i. p. 37. Hist. August, p. 50. 

30 The virtuous and even the wise princes forbade the senators and knights 
to embrace this scandalous profession, under pain of infamy, or, what was in< re 
dreaded by those profligate wret. lies, of exile. The tyrants allured them to dis- 
honor by threats and rewards. Nero once produced in the arena forty senators 
and sixty knights. See Lipsius, Saturnalia, 1. ii. c. 2. He has happily corrected a 
passage of Suetonius in Nerone, c. 12. 

a < Lipt-iuB, 1. ii. c. 7, 8. Juvenal, in the eighth satire, gives a picturesque de- 
scription of this combat. 

3j Hist. August, p. 50. Dion, 1. lxxii. p. 1220. He received, for each time, 
decies, about 8n00/. sterling. 

39 Victor tells us, that Commodus only allowed his antagonists a leaden weap- 
on, dreading most probably the consequences of their despair. 

40 They were obliged to repeat, six hundred and twenty-six times, Paulus 
first of the Secittors.&c. 


senate. 41 Claudius Pompeianus, the virtuous husband of 
Lucilla, was the only senator who asserted the honor of his 
rank. As a father, he permitted his sons to consult their 
safety by attending the amphitheatre. As a Roman he 
declared that his own life was in the emperor's hands, but 
that he would never behold the son of Marcus prostituting 
his person and dignity. Notwithstanding his manly resolu- 
tion, Pompeianus escaped the resentment of the tyrant, and, 
with his honor, had the good fortune to preserve his life. 4 ' 2 

Commodus had now attained the summit of vice and 
infamy. Amidst the acclamations of a flattering court, he 
was unable to disguise from himself, that he had deserved 
the contempt and hatred of every man of sense and virtue 
in his empire. His ferocious spirit was irritated by the 
consciousness of that hatred, by the envy of every kind of 
merit, by the just apprehension of danger, and by the habit 
of slaughter, which he contracted in his daily, amusements. 
History has preserved a long list of consular senators sacri- 
ficed to his wanton suspicion, which sought out, with pecu- 
liar anxiety, those unfortunate persons connected, however 
remotely, with the family of the Antonines, without sparing 
even the ministers of his crimes or pleasures. 43 His cruelty 
proved at last fatal to himself. He had shed with impunity 
the noblest blood of Rome : he perished as soon as he was 
dreaded by his own domestics. Marcia, his favorite concu- 
bine, Eclectus, his chamberlain, and Loetus, his Pra?torian 
pra3fect, alarmed by the fate of their companions and prede- 
cessors, resolved to prevent the destruction which every 
hour hung over their heads, either from the mad caprice of 
the tyrant,* or the sudden indignation of the people. 
Marcia seized the occasion of presenting a draught of wine 
to her lover, after he had fatigued himself with hunting 
some wild beasts. Commodus retired to sleep ; but whilst 
he was laboring with the effects of poison and drunkenness, 
a robust youth, by profession a wrestler, entered his chamber 

41 Dion, 1. lxxii. p. 1221. He speaks of his own baseness and danger. 

42 He mixed, however, some prudence with his courage and past the greatest 
part of his time in a country retirement, alleging his advanced age, and the 
weakness of his eyes. *' I never saw him in the senate," says Dion, " except dur- 
ing the short reign of Pertinax." All his infirmities had suddenly left him, and 
they returned as suddenly upon the murder of that excellent prince. Dion, 1. 
lxxiii. p. 1227. 

43 The prefects were changed almosthourly or daily; and the caprice of Com- 
modus was often fatal to his most favored chamberlains. Hist. August, pp. 4G, 51. 

* Commodus hart already resolved to massacre them the following night : they 
determined to anticipate his design. Herod, i. 17. — W. 


and strangled him without resistance. The body was 
secretly conveyed out of the palace, before the least sus- 
picion was entertained in the city, or even in the court, of 
the emperor's death. Such was the fate of the son of 
Marcus, and so easy was it to destroy a hated tyrant, who, 
by the artificial powers of government, had oppressed, 
during thirteen years, so many millions of subjects, each of 
whom was equal to their master in personal strength and 
personal abilities. 44 

The measures of the conspirators were conducted with 
the deliberate coolness and celerity which the greatness of 
the occasion, required. They resolved instantly to fill the 
vacant throne with an emperor whose character would 
justify and maintain the action that had been committed. 
They fixed on Pertinax, pra3fect of the city, an ancient 
senator of consular rank, whose conspicuous merit had 
broke through the obscurity of his birth, and raised him to 
the first honors of the state. He had successively governed 
most of the provinces of the empire ; and in all his great 
employments, military as well as civil, he had uniformly 
distinguished himself by the firmness, the prudence, and the 
integrity of his conduct. 45 He now remained almost alone 
of the friends and ministers of Marcus ; and when, at a late 
hour of the night, he was awakened with the news, that the 
chamberlain and the prafect were at his door, he received 
them with intrepid resignation, and desired they would exe- 
cute their master's orders. Instead of death, they offered 
him the throne of the Roman world. During some moments 
he distrusted their intentions and assurances. Convinced 
at length of the death of Commodus, he accepted the purple 
with a sincere reluctance, the natural effect of his knowledge 
both of the duties and of the dangers of the supreme rank. 46 

« Dion, 1. Ixxii. p. 1222. Herodian, 1. i. p. 43. Hist. August, p. 52. 

45 Pertinax was a native of Alba Pompeia. in Piedmont, and son of a timber 
merchant. The order of his employments (it is marked by Capitolinus) well de- 
serves to be set down as expressive of the form of government and manners of 
the age. 1. He was a centurion. 2. Prefect of a cohort in Syria, in the Par- 
thian war, and in Britain. 3. He obtained an Ala, or squadron of horse, in 
Moesia. 4. He was commissary of provisions on the iEmilian way. 5. He com- 
manded the fleet upon the Rhine. 6. He was procurator of Dacia, with a salary 
of about 1600/. a year. 7. He commanded the veterans of a legion. 8. He obtained 
the rank of senator. 9. Of p raj tor. 10. With the command of the iirst legion 
in Rhastia and Noricum. 11. He was consul about the year 175. 12. He attended 
Marcus into the East. 13. He commanded an army on the Danube. 14. He was 
consular legate of Maesia. 15. Of Dacia. 1G. Of Syria. 17. Of Britain. 18. He 
had the < are of the public provisions at Rome. If). He was proconsul of Africa. 
20. Prajfect of the city. Herodian (1. i. p. 48) does justice to his disinterested 
spirit ; but Capitolinus, who collected every popular rumor, charges him with a 
great fortune acquired by bribery and corruption. 

'"' .Julian, in the Caesars, taxes him with being accessory to the death of Corn- 


Laetus conducted without delay his new emperor to the 
camp of the Praetorians, diffusing at the same time through 
the city a seasonable report that Commodus died suddenly 
of an apoplexy; and that the virtuous Pertinax had already 
succeeded to the throne. The guards were rather surprised 
than pleased with the suspicious death of a prince, whose 
indulgence and liberality they alone had experienced; but 
the emergency of the occasion, the authority of their prsefect, 
the reputation of Pertinax, and the clamors of the people, 
obliged them to stifle their secret discontents, to accept the 
donative promised by the new emperor, to swear allegiance 
to him, and with joyful acclamations and laurels in their 
hands to conduct him to the senate house, that the military 
consent might be ratified by the civil authority. 

This important night was now far spent; with the dawn 
of day, and the commencement of the new year, the senators 
expected a summons to attend an ignominious ceremony.* 
In spite of all remonstrances, even of those of his creatures 
who yet preserved any regard for prudence or decency, Com- 
modus had resolved to pass the night in the gladiators' 
school, and from thence to take possession of the consulship, 
in the habit and with the attendance of that infamous crew. 
On a sudden, before the break of day, the senate was called 
together in the temple of Concord, to meet the guards, and 
to ratify the election of a new emperor. For a few minutes 
they sat in silent suspense, doubtful of their unexpected de- 
liverance, and suspicious of the cruel artifices of Commodus : 
but when at length they were assured that the tyrant was 
no more, they resigned themselves to all the transports of 
joy and indignation. Pertinax, who modestly represented 
the meanness of his extraction, and pointed out several noble 
senators more deserving than himself of the empire, was 
constrained by their dutiful violence to ascend the throne, 
and received all the titles of Imperial power, confirmed by 
the most sincere vows of fidelity. The memory of Com- 
modus was branded with eternal infamy. The names of 
tyrant, of gladiator, of public enemy resounded in every 
corner of the house. They decreed in tumultuous votes,f 

* The senate always assembled at the beginning of the year, on the night of 
the 1st January (see Savaron on Sid. Apoll. viii. C), and this happened the present 
year, as usual, without any particular order. — G. from W. 

t What Gibbon improperly calls, both here and in the note, tumultuous de- 
crees, were no more than the applauses and acclamations which recur so often in 
the history of the emperors. The custom passed from the theatre to the forum, 
from the forum to the senate. Applauses on the adoption of the Imperial de- 
crees were first introduced under Trajan. (Plin. jun. lanegyr. 75.) One senator 


that his honors should be reversed, his titles erased from 
the public monuments, his statues thrown down, his body 
dragged with a hook into the stripping-room of the gladia- 
tors, to satiate the public fury ; and they expressed some 
indignation against those officious servants who had already 
presumed to screen his remains from the justice of the 
senate. But Pertinax could not refuse those last rites to 
the memory of Marcus, and the tears of his first protector 
Claudius Pompeianus, who lamented the cruel fate of his 
brother-in-law, and lamented still more that he had de- 
served it. 47 

These effusions of impotent rage against a dead emperor, 
whom the senate had flattered when alive with the most ab- 
ject servility, betrayed a just but ungenerous spirit of re- 
venge. The legality of these decrees was, however, sup- 
ported by the principles of the Imperial constitution. To 
censure, to depose, or to punish with death, the first magis- 
trate of the republic, who had abused his delegated trust, 
was the ancient and undoubted prerogative of the Roman 
senate; 48 but that feeble assembly was obliged to content 
itself with inflicting on a fallen tyrant that public justice, 
from which, during his life and reign, he had been shielded 
by the strong arm of military despotism. * 

Pertinax found a nobler way of condemning his prede- 
cessor's memory ; by the contrast of his own virtues with 
the vices of Commodus. On the day of his accession, he re- 
signed over to his wife and son his whole private fortune ; 

<* Capitolinus gives us the particulars of these tumultuary votes, which were 
moved by one senator, and repeated, or rather chanted, by the whole body. Hist. 
August, p. 52- 

** The senate condemned Nero to be put to death more majorum. Sueton. c. 

read the form of the decree, and all the rest answered by acclamations, accom- 
panied with a kind of chant or rhythm. These were some of the acclamations ad- 
dressed to Pertinax, and against the memory of Commodus. Hosti patriae ho- 
nojrea detrahantur. Parrieidte honores detrahantur. Ut salvi simus, Jupiter, 
optima, maxiine, serva nobis Pertinacem. This custom prevai ednot only in the 
councils of state, but in all the meetings of the senate. However inconsistent it 
may appear with the solemnity of a religious assembly, the ea:ly Christians 
adopted and introduced it into their synods notwithstanding the opposition of 
some of the Fathers, particularly of St. Chrysostom. See the Coll. of Franc. 
Bern. Ferrarius de veterum acciamatione in Gnevii Thesaur Antiq. Rom. i. 6. 
— W. 

This note is rather hypercritical, as regards Gibbon, but appears to me 
worthy of preservation.— M. 

• No particular law assigned this right to the senate : it was deduced from the 
ancient principles of the republic. Gibbon appears to infer, from the passage of 
Suetonius, that the senate, according to its ancient right, punished Nero with 
death. The words, however, more m (jorum refer not to the decree of the senate, 
but to the kind of death, which was taken from au old law of Romulus. (See 
Victor. Epit. Ed. Aitzen, p. 484, n. 7.)— W. 


that they might have no pretence to solicit favors at the ex- 
pense of the state. He refused to flatter the vanity of the 
former with the title of Augusta; or to corrupt the inex- 
perienced youth of the latter by the rank of Caesar. Accu- 
rately distinguishing between the duties of a parent and 
those of a sovereign, he educated his son with a severe sim- 
plicity, which, while it gave him no assured prospect of the 
throne, might in time have rendered him worthy of it. In 
public, the behavior of Pertinax was grave and affable. He 
lived with the virtuous part of the senate (and, in a private 
station, he had been acquainted with the true character of 
each individual), without either pride or jealousy; consid- 
ered them as friends and companions, witli whom he had 
shared the dangers of the tyranny, and with whom he wished 
to enjoy the security of the present time. He very fre- 
quently invited them to familiar entertainments, the frugal- 
ity of which was ridiculed by those who remembered and 
regretted the luxurious prodigality of Commodus. 49 

To heal, as far as it was possible, the wounds inflicted by 
the hand of tyranny, was the pleasing, but melancholy task 
of Pertinax. The innocent victims, who yet survived, were 
recalled from exile, released from prison, and restored to the 
full possession of their honors and fortunes. The unburied 
bodies of murdered senators (for the cruelty of Commodus 
endeavored to extend itself beyond death) were deposited in 
the sepulchres of their ancestors ; their memory was justi- 
fied ; and every consolation was bestowed on their ruined 
and afflicted families. Among these consolations, one of the 
most grateful Avas the punishment of the Delators; the com- 
mon enemies of their master, of virtue, and of their country. 
Yet even in the inquisition of these legal assassins, Pertinax 
proceeded with a steady temper, which gave everything to 
justice, and nothing to popular prejudice and resentment. 

The finances of the state demanded the most vigilant 
care of the emperor. Though every measure of injustice 
and extortion had been adopted, which could collect the 
property of the subject into the coffers of the prince, the 
rapaciousness of Commodus had been so very inadequate to 
his extravagance, that, upon his death, no more than eight 
thousand pounds were found in the exhausted treasury, 50 to 

40 Dion (1, lxxiii. p. 1223) speaks of these entertainments, as a senator who had 
supped with the emperor ; Capitolinus (Hist. August, p. 58), like a slave, who hail 
received his intelligence from one of the scullions. 

*? Decies. The blameless economy of Pius left his successors a treasure of 
vichc3 septies millies, above two and twenty millions sterling. Dion, 1. lxxiii. p. 


defray the current expenses of government, and to discharge 
the pressing demand of a liberal donative, which the new 
emperor had been obliged to promise to the Praetorian 
guards. Yet under these distressed circumstances, Pertinax 
had the generous firmness to remit all the oppressive taxes 
invented by Commodus, and to cancel all the unjust claims 
of the treasury; declaring, in a decree of the senate, "that 
he was better satisfied to administer a poor republic with 
innocence, than to acquire riches by the ways of tyranny 
and dishonor." Economy and industry he considered as 
the pure and genuine sources of wealth ; and from them he 
soon derived a copious supply for the public necessities. 
The expense of the household was immediately reduced to 
one half. All the instruments of luxury Pertinax exposed 
to public auction, 51 gold and silver plate, chariots of a singu- 
lar construction, a superfluous wardrobe of silk and em- 
broidery, and a great number of beautiful slaves of both 
sexes ; excepting only, with attentive humanity, those who 
were born in a state of freedom, and had been ravished 
from the arms of their weeping parents. At the same time 
that he obliged the worthless favorites of the tyrant to re- 
sign a part of their ill-gotten wealth, he satisfied the just 
creditors of the state, and unexpectedly discharged the long 
arrears of honest services. He removed the oppressive re- 
strictions which had been laid upon commerce, and granted 
all the cultivated lands in Italy and the provinces to those 
who would improve them ; with an exemption from tribute 
during the term of ten years. 52 

Such a uniform conduct had already secured to Pertinax 
the noblest reward of a sovereign, the love and esteem of his 
people. Those who remembered the virtues of Marcus were 
happy to contemplate in their new emperor the features of 
that bright original ; and flattered themselves, that they 
should long enjoy the benign influence of his administration. 
A hasty zeal to reform the corrupted state, accompanied 
with less prudence than might have been expected from the 
years and experience of Pertinax, proved fatal to himself 
and to his country. His honest indiscretion united against 
him the servile crowd, Avho found their private benefit in the 

51 Besides the design of converting these useless ornaments into money, Dion 
(1. Ixxiii. p. 1229) assigns two secret motives of Pertinax. He wished to expose 
the vices of Commodus, and to discover by the purchasers those who most re- 
sembled him. 

• r >- Though Capitolinus has picked up many idle tales of the piivate life of 
Pertinax, he joins with Dion and Herodian in admiring his public conduct. 


public disorders, and who preferred the favor of a tyrant to 
the inexorable equality of the laws. 53 

Amidst the general joy, the sullen and angry countenance 
of the Praetorian guards betrayed their inward dissatisfac- 
tion. They had reluctantly submitted to Pertinax ; they 
dreaded the strictness of the ancient discipline, which he was 
preparing to restore ; and they regretted the license of the 
former reign. Their discontents were secretly fomented by 
Laetus, their praefect, who found, when it was too late, that 
his new emperor would reward a servant, but would not be 
ruled by a favorite. On the third day of his reign, the 
soldiers seized on a noble senator, with a design to carry him 
to the camp, and to invest him with the Imperial purple. 
Instead of being dazzled by the dangerous honor, the affright- 
ed victim escaped from their violence, and took refuge at the 
feet of Pertinax. A short time afterwards, Sosius Falco, one 
of the consuls of the year, a rash youth, 64 but of an ancient 
and opulent family, listened to the voice of ambition ; and a 
conspiracy was formed during a short absence of Pertinax, 
which was crushed by his sudden return to Rome, and his 
resolute behavior. Falco was on the point of being justly 
condemned to death as a public enemy, had he not been 
saved by the earnest and sincere entreaties of the injured 
emperor, who conjured the senate, that the purity of his 
reign might not be stained by the blood even of a guilty 

These disappointments served only to irritate the rage of 
the Praetorian guards. On the twenty-eighth of March, 
eighty-six days only after the death of Commodus, a general 
sedition broke out in the camp, which the officers wanted 
either power or inclination to suppress. Two or three hun- 
dred of the most desperate soldiers marched at noonday,with 
arms in their hands and fury in their looks, towards the Im- 
perial palace. The gates were thrown open by their com- 
panions upon guard, and by the domestics of the old court, 
who had already formed a secret conspiracy against the life 
of the too virtuous emperor. On the news of their approach, 
Pertinax, disdaining either flight or concealment, advanced 
to meet his assassins ; and recalled to their minds his own 
innocence, and the sanctity of their recent oath. For a 
few moments the^ stood in silent suspense, ashamed of their 

53 Leges, rem surdam. inexorabilem esse. T. Liv. ii. 3. 

54 If we credit Capitolinus (which is rather difficult), Falco behaved with the 
most petnlent indecency to Pertinax, on the day of his accession. The wise em- 
peror only admonished him of his youth and inexperience. Hist. August, p. 55. 


atrocious design, and awed by the venerable aspect and ma- 
jestic firmness of their sovereign, till at length, the despair 
of pardon reviving their fury, a barbarian of the country of 
Ton ores G5 levelled the first blow against Pertinax, who was 
instantly despatched with a multitude of wounds. His head, 
separated from his body, and placed on a lance, was carried 
in triumph to the Praetdriah camp, in the sight of a mourn- 
ful and indignant people, who lamented the unworthy fate 
of that excellent prince, and the transient blessings of a 
reign, the memory of which could serve only to aggravate 
their approaching misfortunes. 56 

55 The modern bishopric of Liege. This soldier probably belonged to the Ba- 
tavian horse-guards, who were mostly raised in the duchy of Gueldres and the 
neighborhood, and were distinguished by their valor, and by the boldness with 
which they swam their horses across the broadest and most rapid rivers. Tacit. 
Hist. iv. 12. Dion, 1. lv. p. 797. Lipsius de magnitudine Roinana, 1. i. c. 4. 

M Dion, 1. lxxiii. p. 1232. Herodian. 1. ii. p. 60. Hist. August, p. 58. Victor 
in Epitom. et in Caesarib. Eutropius, viii. 16. 








The power of the sword is more sensibly felt in an ex- 
tensive monarchy, than in a small community. It has been 
calculated by the ablest politicians, that no state, without 
being soon exhausted, can maintain above the hundredth 
part of its members in arms and idleness. But although 
this relative proportion may be uniform, the influence of the 
army over the rest of the society will vary according to the 
degree of its positive strength. The advantages of military 
science and discipline cannot be exerted, unless a proper 
number of soldiers are united into one body, and actuated 
by one soul. With a handful of men, such a union would 
be ineffectual; with an unwieldy host, it would be imprac- 
ticable; and the powers of the machine would be alike de- 
stroyed by the extreme minuteness or the excessive weight 
of its springs. To illustrate this observation, we need only 
reflect, that there is no superiority of natural strength, arti- 
ficial weapons, or acquired skill, which could enable one man 
to keep in constant subjection one hundred of his fellow- 
creatures : the tyrant of a single town, or a small district, 
would soon discover that a hundred armed followers were a 
weak defence against ten thousand peasants or citizens ; but 
a hundred thousand well-disciplined soldiers will command, 
with despotic sway, ten millions of subjects ; and a body of 
ten or fifteen thousand guards will strike terror into the 
most numerous populace that ever crowded the streets of an 
immense capital. 

The Praetorian bands, whose licentious fury was the first 
symptom and cause of the decline of the Roman empire, 



scarcely amounted to the last-mentioned number. 1 They de- 
rived their institution from Augustus. That crafty tyrant, 
sensible that laws might color, but that arms alone could 
maintain, his usurped dominion, had gradually formed this 
powerful body of guards, in constant readiness to protect 
his person, to awe the senate, and either to prevent or to 
crush the first motions of rebellion. He distinguished these 
favored troops by a double pay and superior privileges ; but, 
as their formidable aspect Would at once have alarmed and 
irritated the Roman people, three cohorts only were stationed 
in the capital, whilst the remainder Avas dispersed in the ad- 
jacents towns of Italy. 2 But after fifty years of peace and 
servitude, Tiberius ventured on a decisive measure, which 
forever riveted the fetters of his country. Under the fair 
pretences of relieving Italy from the heavy burden of mili- 
tary quarters, and of introducing a stricter discipline among 
the guards, he assembled them at Rome, in a permanent 
camp, 8 which was fortified with skilful care, 4 and placed on 
a commanding situation. 5 

Stich formidable servants are always necessary, but often 
fatal to the throne of despotism. By thus introducing the 
Praetorian guards as it were into the palace and the senate, 
the emperors taught them to perceive their own strength, 
and the weakness of the civil government ; to view the vices 
of their masters with familiar contempt, and to lay aside 
that reverential awe, which distance only, and mystery, can 
preserve towards an imaginary power, hi the luxurious 
idleness of an opulent city, their pride was nourished by the 
sense of their irresistible weight ; nor was it possible to con- 
ceal from them, that the person of the sovereign, the author- 
ity of the senate, the public treasure, and the seat of empire, 

* They were originally nine or ten thousand men (for Tacitus and Dion are 
not agreed upon the subject', divHed into as many cohorts. Vitellius increased 
them to sixteen thousand, and as tar as we can learn from inscriptions, they 
never afterwards sank much below that number. See Lipsius de magnitudine 
Roniana, i. 4. 

2 Sueton. in August, c. 49. 

3 Tacit. Annal. iv. 2. Sueton. in Tiber, c. 37. Dion Cassius, 1. lvii. p. 867. 

4 In the civil war between Vitellius and Vespasian, the Prseto ian camp was 
attacked and defended with all the machines used in the siege of the best forti- 
fied cities. Tacit. Hist. iii. 84. 

5 Close to the walls of the city, on the broad summit of the Quiiinal and Vim- 
inal hills. See Nardini Roma Antica, p. 174. Donatus de Roma Antiqua, p. 4C* 

* Not on both these hills: neither Donatus nor Nardini justify this position. 
(Whitaker's Review, p. 13.) At the northern extremity of this hill (the Viminal) 
are some considerable remains of a wailed enelos ire which bears all the appear- 
ance of a Roman camp, and therefore is generally thought to correspond with 
the Castra Pretoria. Cramer's italy, i. 890. — M. 


were all in their hands. To divert the Pnetorian bands from 
these dangerous reflections, the firmest and host established 
princes were obliged to mix blandishments with commands, 
rewards with punishments, to flatter their pride, indulge 
their pleasures, connive at their irregularities, and to pur- 
chase their precarious faith by a liberal donative ; which, 
since the elevation of Claudius, was exacted as a legal claim, 
on the accession of every new emperor. 6 

The advocates of the guards endeavored to justify by 
arguments the power which they asserted by arms; and to 
maintain that, according to the purest principles of the con- 
stitution, their consent was essentially necessary in the ap- 
pointment of an emperor. The election of consuls, of 
generals, and of magistrates, however it had been recently 
usurped by the senate, was the ancient and undoubted right 
of the Roman people. 7 But where was the Roman people 
to be found? Not surely amongst the mixed multitude of 
slaves and strangers that filled the streets of Rome ; a ser- 
vile populace, as devoid of spirit as destitute of property. 
The defenders of the state, selected from the flower of the 
Italian youth, 8 and trained in the exercise of arms and 
virtue, were the genuine representatives of the people, and 
the best entitled to select the military chief of the republic. 
These assertions, however defective in reason, became un- 
answerable when the fierce Prastorians increased their 
weight, by throwing, like the barbarian conqueror of Rome, 
their swords into the scale. 9 

The Pra3torians had violated the sanctity of the throne by 
the atrocious murder of Pertinax ; they dishonored the maj- 
esty of it by their subsequent conduct. The camp was 
without a leader, for even the praafect Laatus, who had ex- 
cited the tempest, prudently declined the public indignation. 
Amidst the wild disorder, Sulpicianus, the emperor's father- 
in-law, and governor of the city, who had been sent to the 
camp on the first alarm of mutiny, was endeavoring to calm 

c Claudius, raised by the soldiers to the empire, was the first "who gave a dona- 
tive. He gave quina dena, 120/. (Sueion. in Claud, e. 10): when Marcus, wilb his 
colleague Lttcius Verus. took quiet possession of the throne, he gave vicena, ICO/, 
to each of the guards. Hist. August, p. 25 (Dion, 1. lxxiii. p. 1231). We may form 
some idea of the amount of these sums, by Hadrian's eompliint that the promo- 
tion of a Ciesar had cost him icr millies, two millions and a half sterling. 

7 Cicero de Legihus, iii. 3. The first book of Livy, and the second of Dionysius 
of Ilalicarnassus, show the authority of the people even in the election of the 

b They were originally recruited in Latium, Etruria, and the old colonies 
(Tacit. Annai. iv. 5). The emperor Otho compliments their vanity with the nat- 
tering titles of Italia! Alumni, Lomana vere juventus. Tacit. Hist. i. 84. 

9 In the siege of Home by the Gauls. See Livy, v. 48. Plutarch, in Camill. p. 
143, „ 


the fury of the multitude, when he was silenced by the 
clamorous return of the murderers, bearing on a lance the 
head of Pertinax. Though history has accustomed us to 
observe every principle and every passion yielding to the 
imperious dictates of ambition, it is scarcely credible that, 
in these moments of horror, Sulpicianus should have aspired 
to ascend a throne polluted with the recent blood of so near 
a relation and so excellent a prince. He had already begun 
to use the only effectual argument, and to treat for the Im- 
perial dignity ; but the more prudent of the Praetorians, ap- 
prehensive that, in this private contract, they should not 
obtain a just price for so valuable a commodity, ran out 
upon the ramparts : and, with a loud voice, proclaimed that 
the Roman world was to be disposed of to the best bidder 
by public auction. 10 

This infamous offer, the most insolent excess of military 
license, diffused a universal grief, shame, and indignation 
throughout the city. It reached at length the ears of Didius 
Julianus, a wealthy senator, who, regardless of the public 
calamities, was indulging himself in the luxury of the table. 11 
His wife and his daughter, his freedmen and his parasites, 
easily convinced him that he deserved the. throne, and ear- 
nestly conjured him to embrace so fortunate an opportunity. 
The vain old man hastened to the Praetorian camp, where 
Sulpicianus was still in treaty with the guards, and began 
to bid against him from the foot of the rampart. The un- 
worthy negotiation was transacted by faithful emissaries, 
who passed alternately from one candidate to the other, and 
acquainted each of them with the offers of his rival. Sul- 
picianus had already promised a donative of five thousand 
drachms (above one hundred and sixty pounds) to each 
soldier ; when Julian, eager for the prize, rose at once to the 
sum of six thousand two hundred and fifty drachms, or up- 
wards of two hundred pounds sterling. The gates of the 
camp were instantly thrown open to the purchaser ; he was 
declared emperor, and received an oath of allegiance from 
the soldiers, who retained humanity enough to stipulate that 
he should pardon and forget the competition of Sulpi- 

10 Dion, 1. lxxiii. p. 1234. Herodian, 1. ii. p. 63. Hist. August, p. CO. Though 
the three historians agree that it was in fact an auction, Herodian alone akirnis 
that it was proclaimed as such by the soldiers. 

11 Spartianus softens the most odious parts of the character and elevation of 

* One of the principal causes of the preference of Julianus by the soldiers was 


It was now incumbent on the Praetorians to fulfil the con- 
ditions of the sale. They placed their new sovereign, whom 
they served and despised, in the centre of their ranks, sur- 
rounded him on every side with their shields, and conducted 
him in close order of battle through the deserted streets of 
the city. The senate was commanded to assemble ; and those 
who had been the distinguished friends of Pertinax, or the 
personal enemies of Julian, found it necessary to affect a 
more than common share of satisfaction at this happy revo- 
lution. 12 After Julian had filled the senate house with armed 
soldiers, he expatiated on the freedom of his election, his 
own eminent virtues, and his full assurance of the affections 
of the senate. The obsequious assembly congratulated their 
own and the public felicity ; engaged their allegiance, and 
conferred on him all the several branches of the Imperial 
power. 13 From the senate Julian was conducted, by the 
same military procession, to take possession of the palace. 
The first objects that struck his eyes were the abandoned 
trunk of Pertinax, and the frugal entertainment prepared 
for his supper. The one he viewed with indifference, the 
other with contempt. A magnificent feast was prepared by 
his order, and he amused himself, till a very late hour, with 
dice, and the performances of Pylades, a celebrated dancer. 
Yet it was observed, that after the crowd of flatterers dis- 
persed, and left him to darkness, solitude, and terrible re- 
flection, he passed a sleepless night ; revolving most probably 
in Ids mind his own rash folly, the fate of his virtuous pre- 
decessor, and the doubtful and dangerous tenure of an em- 
pire which had not been acquired by merit, but purchased 
by money. 14 

12 Dion Cassius, at that time prtetor, had been a personal enemy to Julian, 1. 
lxxiii. p. 1235. 

13 Hist. August, p. 61. We learn from thence one curious circumstance, that 
the new emperor, whatever had been his birth, was immediately aggregated to the 
number of patrician families.* 

H Dion, 1. lxxiii. p. 1235. Hist. August, p. 61. I have endeavored to blend 
into one consistent story the seeming contradictions of the two writers. t 

the dexterity with which he reminded them tbat Sulpicianus would not fail to re- 
venge on them the death of his son-in-law. (See Dion, p. 1234, c. 11. Herod, ii. 

* A new fragment of Dion shows some shrewdness in the character of Julian. 
When the senate voted him a golden statue, he preferred one of brass, as more 
lasting. He "had always observed," he said, "that the statues of former em- 
perors were soon destroyed. Those of brass alone remained." The indignant 
historian adds that he was wrong. The virtue of sovereigns alone preserves their 
images : the brazen statue of Julian was broken to pieces at his death. Mai. 
Fragm. Vatican, p. 226. — M. 

t The contradiction, as M. Guizot observed, is irreconcilable. He quotes both 
passages : in one Julianus is represented as a miser, in the other as a voluptuary. 


He had reason to tremble. On the throne of the world 
he found himself without a friend, and even without an 
adherent. The guards themselves were ashamed of the 
prince whom their avarice had persuaded them to accept ; 
nor was there a citizen who did not consider his elevation 
with horror, as the last insult on the Roman name. The 
nobility, whose conspicuous station, and ample possessions, 
exacted the strictest caution, dissembled their sentiments, 
and met the affected civility of the emperor with smiles of 
complacency and professions of duty. But the people, 
secure in their numbers and obscurity, gave a free vent to 
their passions. The streets and public places of Rome 
resounded with clamors and imprecations. The enraged 
multitude affronted the person of Julian, rejected his 
liberality, and, conscious of the impotence of their own 
resentment, they called aloud on the legions of the frontiers 
to assert the violated majesty of the Roman empire. 

The public discontent was soon diffused from the centre 
to the frontiers of the empire. The armies of Britain, of 
Syria, and of Illyricum, lamented the death of Pertinax, in 
whose company, or under whose command, they had so 
often fought and conquered. They received with surprise, 
with indignation, and perhaps with envy, the extraordinary 
intelligence, that the Praetorians had disposed of the empire 
by public auction ; and they sternly refused to ratify the 
ignominious bargain. Their immediate and unanimous 
revolt was fatal to Julian, but it was fatal at the same time 
to the public peace ; as the generals of the respective 
armies, Clodius Albinus, Pescennius Niger, and Septimius 
Severus, were still more anxious to succeed than to revenge 
the murdered Pertinax. Their forces were exactly balanced. 
Each of them was at the head of three legions, 15 with a 
numerous train of auxiliaries ; and however different in 
their characters, they were all soldiers of experience and 

Clodius Albinus, governor of Britain, surpassed both his 
competitors in the nobility of his extraction, which he 
derived from some of the most illustrious names of the old 
republic. 16 But the branch from which he claimed his 

15 Dion, 1. lxxiii. p. 123". 

10 The Posthumian and the Cejoniau ; the former of whom was raised to the 
consul hip in the fifth year after ito institution. 

In the one he refuses to eat till the body of Pertinax has been buried; in the 
other he gluts himself with every luxury almost in the sight of his headless re- 
mains. — M. 



descent was sunk into mean circumstances, and transplanted 
into a remote province. It is difficult to form a just idea 
of his true character. Under the philosophic cloak of aus- 
terity, he stands accused, of concealing most of the vices 
which degrade human nature. 17 But his accusers are those 
venal writers who adored the fortune of Severus, and tram- 
pled on the ashes of an unsuccessful rival. Virtue, or the 
appearances of virtue, recommended Albinus to the confi- 
dence and good opinion of Marcus ; and his preserving with 
the son the same interest which he had acquired with the 
father, is a proof at least that he was possessed of a very 
flexible disposition. The favor of a tyrant does not always 
suppose a want of merit in the object of it ; he may, with- 
out intending it, reward a man of worth and ability, or he 
may find such a man useful to his own service. It does not 
appear that Albinus served the son of Marcus, either as the 
minister of his cruelties, or even as the associate of his 
pleasures. lie was employed in a distant honorable com- 
mand, when he received a confidential letter from the 
emperor, acquainting him of the treasonable designs of 
some discontented generals, and authorizing him to declare 
himself the guardian and successor of the throne, by assum- 
ing the title and ensigns of Caesar. 18 The governor of 
Britain wisely declined the dangerous honor, which would 
have marked him for the jealousy, or involved him in the 
approaching ruin, of Commodus. He courted power by 
nobler, or, at least, by more specious arts. On a premature 
report of the death of the emperor, he assembled his troops; 
and, in an elegant discourse, deplored the inevitable mis- 
chiefs of despotism, described the happiness and glory which 
their ancestors had enjoyed under the consular government, 
and declared his firm resolution to reinstate the senate and 
people in their legal authority. This popular harangue was 
answered by the loud acclamations of the British legions, 
and received at Rome with a secret murmur of applause. 
Safe in the possession of his little world, and in the com- 
mand of an army less distinguished indeed for discipline 
than for numbers and valor, 19 Albinus braved the menaces of 
Commodus, maintained towards Pertinax a stately ambigu- 

17 Spartianus, in his undigested collections, mixes no all the virtues and all the 
vices that enter into the human composition, and bestows them on the same ob- 
ject. Such, indeed, are many of the characters in the Augustan llisturv. 

" Hist. August, pp. 80. 81. 

19 Pertinax. who governed Britain a few years before, had been left for dead, 
in *v mutiny oi the soldier*. Hist. August, p. 54. Yet they loved and regretted 
him ; admirantibus earn virtutem cui irascebantur. 


ons reserve, and instantly declared against the usurpation 
of Julian. The convulsions of the capital added new 
weight to his sentiments, or rather to his professions of 
patriotism. A regard to decency induced him to decline 
the lofty titles of Augustus and Emperor ; and he imitated 
perhaps the example of Gaiba, who, on a similar occasion, 
had styled himself the Lieutenant of the senate and 
people. 20 

Personal merit alone had raised Pescennius Niger, from 
an obscure birth and station, to the Government of Syria; 
a lucrative and important command, which in times of civil 
confusion gave him a near prospect of the throne. Yet his 
parts seem to have been better suited to the second than to 
the first rank ; he was an unequal rival, though he might 
have approved himself an excellent lieutenant, to Severus, 
who afterwards displayed the greatness of his mind by 
adopting several useful institutions from a vanquished en- 
emy. 21 In his government, Niger acquired the esteem of 
the soldiers and the love of the provincials, His rigid 
discipline fortified the valor and confirmed the obedience 
of the former, whilst the voluptuous Syrians were less 
delighted with the mild firmness of his administration than 
with the affability of his manners, and the apparent pleasure 
with which he attended their frequent and pompous fes- 
tivals. 22 As soon as the intelligence of the atrocious mur- 
der of Pertinax had reached Antioch, the wishes of Asia 
invited Niger to assume the Imperial purple and revenge 
his death. The legions of the eastern frontier embraced his 
cause; the opulent but unarmed provinces, from the fron- 
tiers of ^Ethiopia 23 to the Iladriatic, cheerfully submitted 
to his power ; and the kings beyond the Tigris and the 
Euphrates congratulated his election, and offered him their 
homage and services. The mind of Niger was not capable 
of receiving this sudden tide of fortune : he flattered him- 
self that his accession would be undisturbed by competition 
and unstained by civil blood; and whilst he enjoyed the 
vain pomp of triumph, he neglected to secure the means of 
victory. Instead of entering into an effectual negotiation 

20 Sueton. in Galb. c. 10. 

a Hist. August, i). 76. 

22 Herod. 1. ii. p. G8. The Chronicle of John Malala, Of Antioch, shows the 
zealous attachment of his countrymen to these festivals, which at once gratified 
their superstition, and their love of pleasure. 

'-'- A king of Thebes, in Egypt, is mentioned, in the Augustan History, as an 
ally, and, indeed, as a personal friend, of Niger. If Spartianus is not, as I strongly 
suspect, mistaken, he has brought to light a dynasty of tributary princes totally 
unknown to historv. 


With the powerful armies of the West, whose resolution 
rnight decide, or at least must balance, the mighty contest; 
instead of advancing without delay towards Rome and 
Italy, where his presence was impatiently expected,' 24 Niger 
trifled away in the luxury of Antioch those irretrievable 
moments which were diligently improved by the decisive 
activity of Severus. 25 

The country of Pannonia and Dalmatia, which occupied 
the space between the Danube and the Hadriatic, was one 
of the last and most difficult conquests of the Romans. In 
the defence of national freedom, two hundred thousand of 
these barbarians had once appeared in the field, alarmed the 
declining age of Augustus, and exercised the vigilant pru- 
dence of Tiberius at the head of the collected force of the 
empire.' 26 The Pannonians yielded at length to the arms 
and institutions of Rome. Their recent subjection, how- 
ever, the neighborhood, and even the mixture, of the uncon- 
quered tribes, and perhaps the climate, adapted, as it has 
been observed, to the production of great bodies and slow 
minds, 27 all contributed to preserve some remains of their 
original ferocity, and, under the tame and uniform counte- 
nance of Roman provincials, the hardy features of the natives 
were still to be discerned. Their warlike youth afforded an 
inexhaustible supply of recruits to the legions stationed on 
the banks of the Danube, and which, from a perpetual war- 
fare against the Germans and Sarmatians, were deservedly 
esteemed the best troops in the service. 

The Pannonian army was at this time commanded by 
Septimius Severus, a native of Africa, who, in the gradual 
ascent of private honors, had concealed his daring ambition, 
which was never diverted from its steady course by the al- 
lurements of pleasure, the apprehension of danger, or the 
feelings of humanity.' 28 On the first news of the murder of 
Pertinax, he assembled his troops, painted in the most lively 
colors the crime, the insolence, and the weakness of the 
Praetorian guards, and animated the legions to arms and to 

24 Dion, 1. lxxiii. p. 1238- Herod. 1. ii. p. 67. A verse in every one's mouth at 
that time seems to express tlie general opinion of the three rivals : Optimus est 
Niger [Fuse us, which preserves the quantity. — 31.], bonus Afer pessimus Albus. 
Hist. August, p. 75. 

25 Herodian, 1. ii. p. 71. 

26 See an account of that memorable war in Vellejus Paterculus, ii. 110, &c, 
who served in the army of Tiberius. 

27 Such is the reflection of Herodian, 1. ii. p. 74. Will the modern Austrians 
allow the influence? 

23 In the letter to Albinus, already mentioned, Commodus accuses Severus as 
one of the ambitious generals who censured his conduct, and wished to occupy 
his place. Hist. August, p. 80. 


revenge. He concluded (and the peroration was thought 
extremely eloquent) with promising every soldier about four 
hundred pounds; an honorable donative, double in value to 
the infamous bribe with which Julian had purchased the 
empire. 29 The acclamations of the army immediately saluted 
Severus with the names of Augustus, Pertinax, and Em- 
peror ; and he thus attained the lofty station to which he 
was invited, by conscious merit and a long train of dreams 
and omens, the fruitful offsprings either of his superstition 
or policy. 30 

The new candidate for empire saw and improved the 
peculiar advantage of his situation. His province extended 
to the Julian Alps, which gave an easy access into Italy , 
and he remembered the saying of Augustus, that a Pannoni- 
an army might in ten days appear in sight of Rome. 31 By 
a celerity proportioned to the greatness of the occasion, he 
might reasonably hope to revenge Pertinax, punish Julian, 
and receive the homage of the senate and people, as their 
lawful emperor, before his competitors, separated from Italy 
by an immense tract of sea and land, were apprised of his 
success, or even of his election. During the whole expedi- 
tion, he scarcely allowed himself any moments for sleep or 
food; marching on foot, and in complete armor, at the head 
of his columns, he insinuated himself into the confidence 
and affection of his troops, pressed their diligence, revived 
their spirit, animated their hopes, and w r as well satisfied to 
share the hardships of the meanest soldier, whilst he kept in 
view the infinite superiority of his reward. 

The wretched Julian had expected, and thought himself 
prepared, to dispute the empire with the governor of Syria, 
but in the invincible and rapid approach of the Pannonian 
legions he saw his inevitable ruin. The hasty arrival of 
every messenger increased his just apprehensions. He w r as 

29 Pannonia was too poor to supply such a sum. It was probably promised in 
the camp, and paid at home, after the victory. In fixing the sum, 1 have 
adopted tlie conjecture of Casaubon. See Hist. August, p. GG. Comment, p. 115. 

3 ' Herodian, 1. ii. p. 78. Severus was declared emperor on the banks of the 
Danube, either at Carnuntum, according to Spartianus (Hist. August, p. G5), or 
el^e at Sabaria, according to Victor. Mr. Hume, in supposing that the birth and 
dignity of Severus were ioo much inferior to the Imperial crown, and that he 
marched into Italy as general only, has not considered this transaction with his 
usual accuracy (Kssay on the original contract).* 

;!1 Velleius Paterculus, 1. ii. c. 3. We must reckon the march from the nearest 
verge of Pannonia, and extend the sight of the city as far as two hundred miles. 

* Carnuntum, opposite to the mouth of the Morava : its position is doubtful, 
either Petronel or Haimburg. A little intermediate village seems to indicate by 
its name (Altenburg) the site of an old town. D'Anville, Geogr. Arc. Sabaria, 
now Sarvar.— G- Compare note 37.— M . 


successively informed, that Scvcrns had passed the Alps; 
that the Italian cities, unwilling or unable to oppose his pro- 
gress, had received him with the wannest professions of joy 
and duty; that the important place of Ravenna had sur- 
rendered without resistance, and that the Hadriatic fleet was 
in the hands of the conqueror. The enemy was now within 
two hundred and fiftv miles of Rome; and every moment 
diminished the narrow span of life and empire allotted to 

He attempted, however, to prevent, or at least to pro- 
tract, his ruin. He implored the venal faith of the Praeto- 
rians, filled the city with unavailing preparations for war, 
drew lines round the suburbs, and even strengthened the 
fortifications of the palace; as if those last intrenchments 
could be defended, without hope of relief, against a victori- 
ous invader. Fear and shame prevented the guards from 
deserting his standard, but they trembled at the name of the 
Pannonian legions, commanded by an experienced general, 
and accustomed to vanquish the barbarians on the frozen 
Danube. 32 They quitted, with a sigh, the pleasures of the 
baths and theatres, to put on arms, whose use they had 
almost forgotten, and beneath the weight of which they were 
oppressed. The unpractised elephants, whose uncouth ap- 
pearance, it was hoped, would strike terror into the army 
of the north, threw their unskilful riders ; and the awkward 
evolutions of the marines, drawn from the fleet of Misenum, 
were an object of ridicule to the populace ; whilst the senate 
enjoyed, with secret pleasure, the distress and weakness of 
the usurper. 33 

Every motion of Julian betrayed his trembling perplexity. 
He insisted that Severus should be declared a public enemy 
by the senate. He entreated that the Pannonian general 
might be associated to the empire. He sent public ambas- 
sadors of consular rank to negotiate with his rival ; he de- 
spatched private assassins to take away his life. He designed 
that the Vestal virgins, and all the colleges of priests, in 
their sacerdotal habits, and bearing before them the sacred 
pledges of the Roman religion, should advance in solemn 

32 This is not a puerile figure of rhetoric, but an allusion to a real fact recorded 
by Dion, 1. lxxi. p. 1181. It probably happened more than once. 

;ii Dion, 1. lxxiii. p. 123.°>. Herodian, 1. ii. p. SI. There is no surer proof of the 
military skill of the Romans, than their first surmounting the idle terror, and 
afterwards disdaining the dangerous use," of elephants in war.* 

* These elephants were kept for processions, perhaps for the games. See 
Herod, in loc.— M. 


procession to meet the Pannonian legions ; and, at the same 
time, he vainly tried to interrogate, or to appease, the fates, 
by magic ceremonies and unlawful sacrifices. 34 

Severus, who dreaded neither his arms nor his enchant- 
ments, guarded himself from the only danger of secret con- 
spiracy, by the faithful attendance of six hundred chosen men, 
who never quitted his person or their cuirasses, either by 
night or by day, during the whole march. Advancing with 
a -steady and rapid course, he passed, without difficulty, the 
defiles of the Apennine, received into his party the troops 
and ambassadors sent to retard his progress, and made a 
short halt at Tnteramnia, about seventy miles from Rome. 
His victory was already secure, but the despair of the Prae- 
torians might have rendered it bloody; and Severus had the 
laudable ambition of ascending the throne without drawing 
the sword. 35 His emissaries, dispersed in the capital, assured 
the guards, that provided they would abandon their worth- 
less prince, and the perpetrators of the murder of Pertinax, 
to the justice of the conqueror, he would no longer consider 
that melancholy event as the act of the whole body. The 
faithless Praetorians, whose resistance was supported only 
by sullen obstinacy, gladly complied with the easy condi- 
tions, seized the greatest part of the assassins, and signified 
to the senate, that they no longer defended the cause of 
Julian. That assembly, convoked by the consul, unani- 
mously acknowledged Severus as lawful emperor, decreed 
divine honors to Pertinax, and pronounced a sentence of 
deposition and death against his unfortunate successor. 
Julian was conducted into a private apartment of the baths 
of the palace, and beheaded as a common criminal, after 
having purchased, with an immense treasure, an anxious and 
precarious reign of only sixty-six days. 36 The almost incred- 
ible expedition of Severus, who, in so short a space of time, 
conducted a numerous army from the banks of the Danube 
to those of the Tiber, proves at once the plenty of provi- 
sions produced by agriculture and commerce, the goodness 

*» Hist. August, pp. 62, 63.* 

3; "' Victor ami Eutropius, viii. 17, mention a combat near the Milvian bridge, 
the Ponte Molle. unknown to the better and more ancient writers. 
30 Dion, 1. lxxiii. p. 1240. Herodian, 1. ii. p. 83. Hist. August, p. 63. 

* Quae ad speculum dicunt fieri in quo pueri praeligatis oculis, incantato ver- 
tice, respicere dicuntur. * * * Tuncque puer vidisse dicitur et adventum Severi 
et Juliaui decessionem. This seems to have been a practice somewhat similar to 
that of which our recent Egyptian travellers relate such extraordinary circum- 
stances. See also Apuleius, Orat. de Magia. — M. 


of the roads, the discipline of the legions, and the indolent, 
subdued temper of the provinces. 87 

The first cares of Severns were bestowed on two meas- 
ures, the one dictated by policy, the other by decency ; the 
revenge, and the honors, due to the memory of Pertinax. 
Before the new emperor entered Rome, he issued his com- 
mands to the Praetorian guards, directing them to wait his 
arrival on a large plain near the city, without arms, but in 
the habits of ceremony, in which they were accustomed to 
attend their sovereign. He was obeyed by those haughty 
troops, whose contrition was the effect of their just terrors. 
A chosen part of the Ulyrian army encompassed them with 
levelled spears. Incapable of flight or resistance, they ex- 
pected their fate in silent consternation. Severus mounted 
the tribunal, sternly reproached them with perfidy and cow- 
ardice, dismissed them with ignominy from the trust which 
they had betrayed, despoiled them of their splendid orna- 
ments, and banished them, on pain of death, to the distance 
of a hundred miles from the capita*!. During the transac- 
tion, another detachment had been sent to seize their arms, 
occupy their camp, and prevent the hasty consequences of 
their despair. 38 

The funeral and consecration of Pertinax was next solem- 
nized with every circumstance of sad magnificence. 39 The 
senate, with a melancholy pleasure, performed the last rites 
to that excellent prince, whom they had loved, and still re- 
gretted. The concern of his successor was probably less 
sincere ; he esteemed the virtues of Pertinax, but those vir- 
tues would forever have confined his ambition to a private 
station. Severus pronounced his funeral oration with studied 
eloquence, inward satisfaction, and well-acted sorrow ; and 
by this pious regard to his memory, convinced the credulous 
multitude that he alone was worthy to supply his place. 
Sensible, however, that arms, not ceremonies, must assert 
his claim to the empire, he left Rome at the end of thirty 
days, and, without suffering himself to be elated by this 

w From these sixty-six days, we must first deduct sixteen, as Pertinax was 
murdered on the 28th of March, and Severus most probably elected on the 13th of 
April (see Hist. August, p. 65, and Tillemont, Hist, des Empereurs, torn. iii. p. 
303, note 7). We cannot allow less than ten days after his election, to put a nu- 
merous army in motion. Forty days remain for this rapid march ; and as we 
may compute about eight hundred miles from Rome to the neighborhood of 
AMenna, the army of Severus marched twenty miles every day without halt or 

33 Dion, 1. lxxiv. p. 1241. Herodian, 1. ii. p. 84. 

■n Dion (1. lxxiv. p. 1244), who assisted at the ceremony as a senator, gives a 
most pompous description of it. 


easy victory, prepared to encounter his more formidable 

The uncommon abilities and fortune of Severus have in- 
duced an elegant historian to compare him with the iirst and 
greatest of the Caesars. 40 The parallel is, at least, imperfect. 
Where shall we find, in the character of Severus, the com- 
manding superiority of soul, the generous clemency, and the 
various genius, which could reconcile and unite the love of 
pleasure, the thirst of knowledge, and the fire of ambition ? 41 
In one instance only they may be compared with some 
degree of propriety, in the celerity of their motions, and 
their civil victories. In less than four years, 42 Severus sub- 
dued the riches of the East, and the valor of the West. 
He vanquished two competitors of reputation and ability, 
and defeated numerous armies, provided with weapons and 
discipline equal to his own. In that age, the art of fortifi- 
cation, and the principles of tactics, were well understood 
by all the Roman generals; and the constant superiority of 
Severus was that of an artist, who uses the same instruments 
with more skill and industry than his rivals. I shall not, 
however, enter into a minute narrative of these military 
operations ; but as the two civil wars against Niger and 
against Albinus were almost the same in their conduct, 
event, and consequences, I shall collect into one point of 
view the most striking circumstances, tending to develop 
the character of the conqueror and the state of the empire. 

Falsehood and insincerity, unsuitable as they seem to 
the dignity of public transactions, offend us with a less de- 

40 Herodian. 1. iii. p. 112. 

41 Though it is not, most assuredly, the intention of Lucan to exalt the char- 
acter of C«sar, yet the idea he gives of that hero, in the tenth book of the Phar- 
salia. where he describes him, at the same time, making love to Cleopatra, sus- 
taining a siege against the power of Egypt, and conversing with the sages of the 
country, is, in reality, the noblest panegyric* 

4 - Reckoning from his election, April 13, 193, to the death of Albinus, February 
19, 197. See Tillemont's Chronology. 

* Lord Byron wrote, no doubt, from a reminiscence of that passage — " It is 
possible to be a very great man, and to be still very inferior to Julius Caesar, the 
most complete character, so Lord Bacon thought, of all antiquity. Nature seems 
incapable of such extraordinary combinations as composed bis versatile capacity, 
which was the wonder even of the Romans themselves. The first general; the only 
triumphant politician; inferior to none in point of eloquence ; comparable to any 
in the attainments of wisdom ; in an age made up of the greatest commanders, 
statesmen, orators, and philosophers, that ever appeared in the world; an author 
who composed a perfect specimen of military annals in his travelling carriage ; 
atone time in a controversy with Cato, at another writing a treatise on punning, 
and collecting a set of good sayings ; righting and making love at the same mo- 
ment, and willing to abandon both bis empire and his mistress for a sight of the 
fountains of the Nile. Such did Julius Caesar appear to his contemporaries, and 
to those of the subsequent a^cs who were the most inclined to deplore and exe- 
crate his fatal genius." Note -17 to Canto iv. of Childe Harold.— 31. 


grading idea of meanness, than when they are found in the 
intercourse of private life. In the latter, they discover a 
want of courage; in the other, only a defect of power: and, 
as it is impossible for the most able statesmen to subdue 
millions of followers and enemies by their own personal 
strength, the world, under the name of policy, seems to 
have in-anted them a verv liberal indulgence of craft and 
dissimulation. Yet the arts of Severus cannot be justified 
by the most ample privileges of state reason. He promised 
only to betray, he flattered only to ruin ; and however lie 
might occasionally bind himself by oaths and treaties, his 
conscience, obsequious to his interest, always released him 
from the inconvenient obligation. 43 

If his two competitors, reconciled by their common dan- 
ger, had advanced upon him without delay, perhaps Severus 
would have sunk under their united effort. Had they even 
attacked him, at the same time, with separate views and 
separate armies, the contest might have been long and doubt- 
ful. But they fell, singly and successively, a.n easy prey to 
the arts as well as arms of their subtle enemy, lulled into 
security by the moderation of his professions, and over- 
whelmed by the rapidity of his action. He first marched 
against Niger, whose reputation and power he the most 
dreaded ; but he declined any hostile declarations, sup- 
pressed the name of his antagonist, and only signified to the 
senate and people his intention of regulating the eastern 
provinces. In private, he spoke of Niger, his old friend 
and intended successor, 44 with the most affectionate regard, 
and highly applauded his generous design of revenging the 
murder of Pertinax. To punish the vile usurper of the 
throne, was the duty of every Roman general. To per- 
severe in arms, and to resist a lawful emperor, acknowledged 
by the senate, would alone render him criminal. 45 The sons 
of Niger had fallen into his hands among the children of 
the provincial governors, detained at Rome as pledges for 
the loyalty of their parents. 46 As long as the power of 
Niger inspired terror, or even respect, they were educated 

43 Herodian, 1. ii. p. 85. 

44 Whilst Severus was very dangerously ill, it was industriously given out, that 
lie intended lo appoint Niger and Albinus his successors. As he could not be 
sincere with respect to both, he might not be so with regard to either. Yet 
Severus carried his hypocrisy so far as to profess that intention in the memoirs 
of his own life. 

« Hist. August, p. 65. 

40 This practice, invented by Commodus, proved very useful to Severus. He 
found at Home the children of many of the principal adherents of his rivals ; and 
he employed them more than once to intimidate, or seduce, the parents. 


with the most tender care with the children of Severus 
himself ; but they were soon involved in their father's ruin, 
and removed, first by exile, and afterwards by death, from 
the eye of public compassion. 47 

Whilst Severus was engaged in his eastern war, he had 
reason to apprehend that the governor of Britain might 
pass the sea and the Alps, occupy the vacant seat of empire, 
and oppose his return with the authority of the senate and 
the forces of the West. The ambiguous conduct of Albinus, 
in not assuming the Imperial title, left room for negotiation. 
Forgetting, at once, his professions of patriotism, and the 
jealousy of sovereign power, he accepted the precarious 
rank of Caesar, as a reward for his fatal neutrality. Till the 
first contest was decided, Severus treated the man, whom 
lie had doomed to destruction, with every mark of esteem 
and regard. Even in the letter, in which he announced his 
victory over Niger, he styles Albinus the brother of his 
soul and empire, sends him the affectionate salutations of 
his wife, Julia, and his young family, and entreats him to 
preserve the armies and the republic faithful to their com- 
mon interest. The messengers charged with this letter 
were instructed to accost the Cagsar with respect, to desire 
a private audience, and to plunge their daggers into his 
heart. 48 The conspiracy was discovered, and the too credu- 
lous Albinus, at length, passed over to the continent, and 
prepared for an unequal contest with his rival, who rushed 
upon him at the head of a veteran and victorious army. 

The military labors of Severus seem inadequate to the 
importance of his conquests. Two engagements,* the one 
near the Hellespont, the other in the narrow defiles of Ci- 
licia, decided the fate of his Syrian competitor; and the 
troops of Europe asserted their usual ascendant over the 
effeminate natives of Asia. 49 The battle of Lyons, where 
one hundred and fifty thousand Romans 50 were engaged, 
was equally fatal to Albinus. The valor of the British 
army maintained, indeed, a sharp and doubtful contest, 

47 Herodian, 1. iii. p. 96. Hist. August, pp. 67, 68. 

48 Hist. August, p. 84. Spartianus lias inserted this curious letter at full 

•■( oiisult the third book of Herodian, and the seventy-fourth book of Dion 

5" JDxon, 1. lxxv. p. 1260. 

* There were three actions ; one near Cyzicus, on the Hellespont, one near 
Nice, in Bithvnia, the third near the Issiuj, in Cilicia, where Alexander conquered 
Darius. (Dion, lxiv. c (>. Herodian, iii. 2, 4.)— W. Herodian represents the 
second battle as of less importance than Dion — M. 


with the hardy discipline of the Illyrian legions. The fame 
and person of Severus appeared, during a few moments, 
irrecoverably lost, till that warlike prince rallied his faint- 
ing troops, and led them on to a decisive victory. 51 The 
Avar was finished by that memorable day.* 

The civil wars of modern Europe have been distin- 
guished, not only by the fierce animosity, but likewise by 
the obstinate perseverance, of the contending factions. 
They have generally been justified by some principle, or, at 
least, colored by some pretext, of religion, freedom, or loy- 
alty. The leaders were nobles of independent property and 
hereditary influence. The troops fought like men interested 
in the decision of the quarrel ; and as military spirit and 
party zeal were strongly diffused throughout the whole com- 
munity, a vanquished chief was immediately supplied with 
new adherents, eager to shed their blood in the same cause. 
But the Romans, after the fall of the republic, combated 
only for the choice of masters. Under the standard of a 
popular candidate for empire, a few enlisted from affection, 
some from fear, many from interest, none from principle. 
The legions, uninflamed by party zeal, were allured into 
civil war by liberal donatives, and still more liberal promises. 
A defeat, by disabling the chief from the performance of 
his engagements, dissolved the mercenary allegiance of his 
followers, and left them to consult their own safety by a 
timely desertion of an unsuccessful cause. It was of little 
moment to the provinces, under whose name they were 
oppressed or governed; they were driven by the impulsion 
of the present power, and as soon as that power yielded to 
a superior force, they hastened to implore the clemency of 
the conqueror, who, as he had an immense debt to discharge, 
was obliged to sacrifice the most guilty countries to the 
avarice of his soldiers. In the vast extent of the Roman 
empire, there were few fortified cities capable of protecting 
a routed army; nor was there any person, or family, or 

a Dion, 1. lxxv. p. 1261. He-odian. 1. iii. p. 110. Hi?t. August, p. 68. The bat- 
tle was fought in the plain of Trevoux, three or four leagues from Lyons. See 
Tillemoiit, torn. iii. p. loti, note 18. 

* According to Herodian, it was his lieutenant Laetus who led back the troops 
to the battle, and gained the day, which Severus had almost lost. Dion also at- 
t. ibute-; to L;etus a great share in the victory. Severus afterwards put him to 
death, either from fear or jealousy. — W. and G. Wenck and JVI. Guizot have not 
given the real statement of Herodian or of Dion. According to the former, Laetus 
appeared with Ins own army entire, which he was suspected of having designedly 
kept disengaged when the battle was still doubtful, or rather after the lout of 
Severus. Dion says that he did not move till Severus had won the victory.— 2>L. 


order of men, whose natural interest, unsupported by the 
powers of government, was capable of restoring the cause 
of a sinking party. 52 

Yet, in the contest between Niger and Severus, a single 
city deserves an honorable exception. As Byzantium was 
one of the greatest passages from Europe into Asia, it had 
been provided with a strong garrison, and a fleet of five 
hundred vessels was anchored in the harbor. 53 The impetu- 
osity of Severus disappointed this prudent scheme of de- 
fence ; he left to his generals the siege of Byzantium, forced 
the less guarded passage of the Hellespont, and, impatient 
of a meaner enemy, pressed forward to encounter his rival. 
Byzantium, attacked by a numerous and increasing army, 
and afterwards by the whole naval power of the empire, 
sustained a siege of three years, and remained faithful to 
the name and memory of Niger. The citizens and soldiers 
(we know not from what cause) were animated with equal 
fury ; several of the principal officers of Niger, who de- 
spaired of, or who disdained, a pardon, had thrown them- 
selves into this last refuge ; the fortifications were esteemed 
impregnable, and, in the defence of the place, a celebrated 
engineer displayed all the mechanic powers known to the 
ancients. 54 Byzantium, fit length, surrendered to famine. 
The magistrates and soldiers were put to the sword, the 
walls demolished, the privileges suppressed, and the des- 
tined capital of the East subsisted only as an open village, 
subject to the insulting jurisdiction of Perinthus. The 
historian Dion, who had admired the flourishing, and la- 
mented the desolate, state of Byzantium, accused the re- 
venge of Severus, for depriving the Roman people of the 
strongest bulwark against the barbarians of Pontus and 
Asia. 55 The truth of this observation was but too well jus- 

■>- Montesquieu, Considerations sur la Grandeur et la Decadence des Romains, 
c. xii. 

' Most of these, as may be supposed, were small open vessels ; some, however, 
were galleys of two, and a few of three ranks of oars. 

04 The engineer's name was Priscus. Mis skill saved his life, and he was taken 
into the service of the conqueror. For the particular facts of the siege, consult 
Dion Cassius (1. lxxv. p. 1251) and Herodian (1. iii. p. 95) ; lor the theory of it, the 
fanciful chevalier de Folard may be looked into. See Polybe, torn. i. p. 7G. 

•' 5 Notwithstanding the authority of Spartianus, and some modern Greeks, we 
m <y be assured, from Dion and Herodian, that Byzantium, many years after the 
death of Severus, lay in ruins.* 

* There is no contradiction between the relation of Dion and that of Spar- 
t ; anus and the modern Creeks. Dion does not say tiiat Severus destroyed Byzan- 
timri, bit that he deprived it of its franchises and privileges, stripped the 
inhabitants of their property* razed the fortifications, and subjected the city to 
the jurisdiction of Perinthus. Therefore, when Spartiau, Suidas, Cedrenus/say 


tified in the succeeding age, -when the Gothic fleets covered 
the Euxine, and* passed through the undefined Bosphorus 
into the centre of the Mediterranean. 

Both Niger and Albinus were discovered and put to death 
in their flight from the field of battle. Their fate excited 
neither surprise nor compassion. They had staked their lives 
against the chance of empire, and suffered what they would 
have inflicted ; nor did Severus claim the arrogant superiority 
of suffering his rivals to live in a private station. But his 
unforgiving temper, stimulated by avarice, indulged a spirit 
of revenge, where there was no room for apprehension. The 
most considerable of the provincials, who, without any dis- 
like to the fortunate candidate, had obeyed the governor 
under whose authority they were accidentally placed, were 
punished by death, exile, and especially by the confiscation 
of their estates. Many cities of the East were stripped of 
their ancient honors, and obliged to pay, into the treasury of 
Severus, four times the amount of the sums contributed by 
them for the service of Niger. 58 

Till the final decision of the war, the cruelty of Severus 
was, in some measure, restrained by the uncertainty of the 
event, and his pretended reverence for the senate. The 
head of Albinus, accompanied with a menacing letter, an- 
nounced to the Romans that he was resolved to spare none 
of the adherents of his unfortunate competitors. He was 
irritated by the just suspicion that he had never possessed 
the affections of the senate, and he concealed his old mal- 
evolence under the recent discovery of some treasonable 
correspondences. Thirty-five senators, however, accused of 
having favored the party of Albinus, he freely pardoned, 
and, by his subsequent behavior, endeavored to convince 
them, that he had forgotten, as well as forgiven, their sup- 
posed offences. But, at the same time, he condemned forty- 
one 57 other senators, whose names history has recorded; 

• r>6 Dion, 1. lxxiv. p. 1250. 

57 Dion (1. lxxv. p. 1261) ; only twenty-nine senators are mentioned by him, 
but forty-one are named in the Augustan History, p. (39, among whom were six of 
the name of Pescennius. Herodian (1. iii. p. 115; speaks in general of the cruel- 
ties of Severus. 

that Severus and his son Antoninus restored to Byzantium its rights and fran- 
chises, ordered temples to be built. &c, this is easily reconciled with the relation 
of Dion. Perhaps the latter mentioned it in some of the fragments of his history 
which have been lost. As to Herodian, his expressions are evidently exaggerated, 
and he has been guilty of so many inaccuracies in the history of Severus. that we 
have a right to suppose one in thi< passage. — G. from W r . Wcnck and M. Ciuizot 
have omitted to die Zosimus. who mentioi s a particular portico built by Severus, 
and called, apparently, by his name. Z«-sim. Hist. ii. e. xxx. pp. 15J, 153, edit. 
Heyne.— JNi. 


their wives, children, and clients attended them in death,* 
and the noblest provincials of Spain and Gaul were involved 
in the same ruin.f Such rigid justice — for so he termed it — 
was, in the opinion of Severus, the only conduct capable of 
insuring peace to the people or stability to the prince ; and 
he condescended slightly to lament, that to be mild, it was 
necessary that lie should first be cruel. 58 

The true interest of an absolute monarch generally coin- 
cides with that of his people. Their numbers, their wealth, 
their order, and their security, are the best and only founda- 
tions of his real greatness ; and were he totally devoid of 
virtue, prudence might supply its place, and wculd dictate 
the same rule of conduct. Severus considered the Roman 
empire as his property, and had no sooner secured the pos- 
session than he bestowed his care on the cultivation and 
improvement of so valuable an acquisition. Salutary laws, 
executed with inflexible firmness, soon corrected most of 
the abuses with which, since the death of Marcus, every 
part of the government had been infected. In the adminis- 
tration of justice the judgments of the emperor were char- 
acterized by attention, discernment, and impartiality; and 
whenever he deviated from the strict line of equity, it was 
generally in favor of the poor and oppressed ; not so much 
indeed from any sense of humanity, as from the natural pro- 
pensity of a despot to humble the pride of greatness, and to 
sink all his subjects to the same common level of absolute 
dependence. His expensive taste for building, magnificent 
show r s, and above all a constant and liberal distribution of 
corn and provisions, were the surest means of captivating 
the affection of the Roman people. 59 The misfortunes of 

58 Aurelius Victor. 

50 Dion, 1. lxxvi. p. 1272. Hist. Augusf. p. G7. Severus celebrated the secular 
games with extraordinary magnificence, and he left in the public granaries a pro- 
vision of corn for seven years, at the rate of 75.000 niodii, or about 2500 quarters 
per day. 1 am persuaded that the granaries of Severus were supplied for a long 
term, but I am not less persuaded, that policy on one hand, and admiration on 
the other, magnilied the hoard far beyond its true contents. 

* Wenek denies that there is any authority for this massacre of the wives of 
the senators. He adds, that only the children and relatives of Niger and Albinus 
were put to death. This is true of the family of Albinus, whose bodies were 
thrown into the Rhone ; ihosj of Niger, according to Lampridius, were sent into 
exile, but afterwards put to death. Among the partisans of Albinus who were 
put to death were many women of rank, multaj foeminai illustres. Lamprid. in 
Sever.— M. 

t A new fragment of Dion describes the state of Rome during this contest. 
All pretended to be on the side of Severus; but their secret sentiments were 
often betrayed by a change of countenance on the arrival of some sudden report. 
Some were detected by overacting their loyalty, rt^e?, <5e *ai e* Tovrr<t>66pa 
irpoo-Tzoi'/lvQai irXtov kyivuxTKovro. ' Mai. Fragm. Vatican, p. 227. Severus told the 
senate he would rather have their hearts than their votes, rali ^vxaU m« <£iA«cre, 
Kttl fX7) Tt>ic \f/T}<plafxaai.y. — Ibid. — M. 


civil discord were obliterated. The calm of peace and pros- 
perity was once more experienced in the provinces ; and 
many cities, restored by the munificence of Severns, assumed 
the title of his colonies, and attested by public monuments 
their gratitude and felicity. 00 The fame of the Roman arms 
was revived by that warlike and successful emperor, 01 and 
he boasted, with a just pride, that, having received the empire 
oppressed with foreign and domestic wars, he left it estab- 
lished in profound, universal, and honorable peace. 62 

Although the wounds of civil war appeared completely 
healed, its mortal poison still lurked in the vitals of the con- 
stitution. Severus possessed a considerable share of vigor and 
ability ; but the daring soul of the first Caesar, or the deep 
policy of Augustus, were scarcely equal to the task of curb- 
ing the insolence of the victorious legions. By gratitude, .by 
misguided policy, by seeming necessity, Severus was reduced 
to relax the nerves of discipline. 63 The vanity of his soldiers 
was nattered with the honor of wearing gold rings ; their 
ease was indulged in the permission of living with their wives 
in the idleness of quarters. He increased their pay beyond 
the example of former times and taught them to expect, and 
soon to claim, extraordinary donatives on every public occa- 
sion of danger or festivity. Elated by success, enervated by 
luxury, and raised above the level of subjects by their dan- 
gerous privileges, 64 they soon became incapable of military 
fatigue, oppressive to the country, and impatient of a just 
subordination. Their officers assorted the superiority of rank 
by a more profuse and elegant luxury. There is still extant 
a letter of Severus, lamenting the licentious state of the 
army,* and exhorting one of his generals to begin the neces- 
sary reformation from the tribunes themselves ; since, as he 
justly observes, the officer who has forfeited the esteem, will 

60 See Spanheim's treatise of ancient medals, the inscriptions, and our learned 
travellers Spon and Wheeler, Shaw, Pocock, &c, who, in Africa, Greece, and 
Asia, have found more monuments of Severus than of any other Roman emperor 

G1 He carried his victorious arms to Seleucia and Ctesiphou. the capitals of 
the Parthian monarchy. I shall have occasion to mention this war in its proper 

°- Etiam in Britannis, was his own just and emphatic expression. Hist. Au- 
gust. 73. 

63 Herodian, 1. iii. p. 115. Hist. August, p. 68. 

Ci Upon the insolence and privileges of the soldiers, the 16th satire, falsely as- 
cribed to Juvenal, may be consulted ; the style and circumstances of it would 
induce me to believe that it was composed under the reign of Severus, or that of 
his son. 

* Not of the army, but of the troops in Gaul. The contents of this letter seem 
to prove that Severus was really anxious to restore discipline. Herodian is the 
only historian who accuses him of being the first cause of its relaxation. — G. from 
W. Spartian mentions his increase of the pay.— M. 


never command the obedience, of his soldiers. 65 Had the 
emperor pursued the train of reflection, he would have dis- 
covered, that the primary cause of this general corruption 
might be ascribed, not indeed to the example, but to the 
pernicious indulgence, however, of the commander-in-chief. 

The Praetorians, who murdered their emperor and sold 
the empire, had received the just punishment of their treason ; 
but the necessary, though dangerous, institution of guards 
was soon restored on a new model by Severus, and increased 
to four times the ancient number. 06 Formerly these troops 
had been recruited in Italy; and as the adjacent provinces 
gradually imbibed the softer manners of Rome, the levies 
were extended to Macedonia, Noricum. and Spain. In the 
room of these elegant troops, better adapted to the pomp of 
courts than to the uses of war, it was established by Severus, 
that from all the legions of the frontiers, the soldiers most 
distinguished for strength, valor, and fidelity, should be oc- 
casionally draughted; and promoted, as an honor and reward, 
into the more eligible service of the guards. 67 By this new 
institution, the Italian youth were diverted from the exer- 
cise of arms and the capital was terrified by the strange aspect 
and manners of a multitude of barbarians. But Severus 
flattered himself, that the legions would consider these chosen 
Praetorians as the representatives of the whole military or- 
der ; and that the present aid of fifty thousand men, superior 
in arms and appointments to any force that could be brought 
into the field against them, would forever crush the hopes of 
rebellion, and secure the empire to himself and his posterity. 

The command of these favored and formidable troops 
soon became the first office of the empire. As the govern- 
ment degenerated into military despotism, the Praetorian 
Praefect, who in his origin had been a simple captain of the 
guards,* was placed not only at the head of the army, but 
of the finances, and even of the law. In every department 
of administration, he represented the person, and exercised 
the authority, of the emperor. The first praefect who enjoyed 

65 Hist. August, p. 73. 66 Herodian, 1. iii. p. 131. 67 Dion, 1. Ixxiv. p. 1213. 

* The Praetorian Prefect had never been a simple captain of the guards ; from 
the first creation of this office, under Augustus, it possessed great power. Tliat 
emperor, therefore, decreed that there should be always two Prajtorian Piaefects, 
who could only be taken from the equestrian order. Tiberius first departed from 
the former clause of this edict ; Alexander Severus violated the second by nam- 
ing senators prefects. It appears that it was under ( ommodus that the Prae- 
torian Prefects obtained the province of civil jurisdiction : it extended only to 
Italy, with the exception of Rome and its district, which was governed by the 
Praf'ectua vrbi- As to the control of the finances, and the levying of taxes, it was 
not intrusted to them till after the great change that Constantine I. made in the 



and abused this immense power was Plautianus, the favor- 
ite minister of Severus. His reign lasted about ten years, 
till the marriage of his daughter with the eldest son of the 
emperor, which seemed to assure his fortune, proved the 
occasion of his ruin. 08 The animosities of the palace, by 
irritating the ambition and alarming the fears of Plautianus,* 
threatened to produce a revolution, and obliged the em- 
peror, who still loved him, to consent with reluctance to his 
death. 69 After the fall of Plautianus, an eminent lawyer, the 
celebrated Papinian, was appointed to execute the motley 
office of Praetorian Prosfect. 

Till the reign of Severus, the virtue and even the good 
sense of the emperors had been distinguished by their zeal 
or affected reverence for the senate, and by a tender regard 
to the nice frame of civil policy instituted by Augustus. But 
the youth of Severus had been trained in the implicit obedi- 
ence of camps, and his riper years in the despotism of 
military command. His haughty and inflexible spirit could 
not discover, or would not acknowledge, the advantage of 
preserving an intermediate power, however imaginary, be- 
tween the emperor and the army. He disdained to profess 
himself the servant of an assembly that detested his person 
and trembled at his frown ; he issued his commands, where 
his requests would have proved as effectual ; assumed the 
conduct and style of a sovereign and a conqueror, and exer- 
cised, without disguise, the whole legislative, as well as the 
executive power. 

The victory over the senate was easy and inglorious. 
Every eye and every passion were directed to the supreme 

03 One of his most daring and wanton acts of power was the castration of a 
hundred free Romans, some of them married men, and even fathers of families ; 
merely that his daughter, on her marriage with the young emperor, might be 
attended by a train of eunuchs worthy of an eastern queen. Dion, 1. lxxvi. p. 

09 Dion, 1. lxxvi. p. 1274. Herodian, 1. iii. pp. 122, 129. The grammarian of 
Alexandria seems, as is not unusual, much better acquainted with this mysterious 
transaction, and more assured of the guilt of Plautianus than the lioinan senator 
ventures to be. 

organization of the empire; at least I know no passage which assigns it to them 
before that time ; ami Drakenboivh, who has treated this question in his Disser- 
tation de officio pnefectorum prpetorio, e. vi., does not quote one. — W. 

* Plauiianus was compatriot, relative, and the old friend of Severus ; he had 
so completely shut up all access to the emperor, that the latter was ignoranthovv 
far he abused his powers ; at length, being informed of it, he began to limit his 
authority. The marriage of Planti la with Caracalla was Unfortunate; and the 
prince,whohad been forced to consent to it, menaced the father and the daugh- 
ter with death when he should come to the throne. It was feared, after that, that 
Plautianus would avail himself of the power which he still possessed against the 
Imperial family; and Severus caused him to be assassinated in his presence, 
upon the pretext of a conspiracy, which Dion considers fictitious. — W. This note 
is not, perhaps, very necessary, and does not contain the whole facts. Dion con- 
siders the conspiracy the invention of Caracalla, by whose command, almost by 
whose hand, Plautianus was slain in the presence of Severus. — M. 


magistrate, who possessed the arms and treasure of the 
state; whilst the senate, neither elected byjhe people, nor 
guarded by military force, nor animated by public spirit, 
rested its declining authority on the frail and crumbling 
basis of ancient opinion. The fine theory of a republic in- 
sensibly vanished, and made way for the more natural and 
substantial feelings of monarchy. As the freedom and 
honors of Rome were successively communicated to the 
provinces, in which the old government had been either 
unknown, or was remembered with abhorrence, the tradi- 
tion of republican maxims was gradually obliterated. The 
Greek historians of the age of the Antonines 70 observe, with 
a malicious pleasure, that although the sovereign of Rome, 
in compliance with an obsolete prejudice, abstained fiom 
the name of king, he possessed the full measure of regal 
power. In the reign of Severus, the senate was filled with 
polished and eloquent slaves from the eastern provinces, 
who justified personal flattery by speculative principles of 
servitude. These new advocates of prerogative were heard 
with pleasure by the court, and with patience by the people, 
when they inculcated the duty of passive obedience, and 
descanted on the inevitable mischiefs of freedom. The 
lawyers and historians concurred in teaching, that the Im- 
perial authority was held, not by the delegated commission, 
but by the irrevocable resignation of the senate ; that the 
emperor was freed from the restraint of civil laws, could 
command by his arbitrary will the lives and fortunes of his 
subjects, and might dispose of the empire as of his private 
patrimony. 71 The most eminent of the civil lawyers, and 
particularly Papinian, Paulus, and Ulpian, flourished under 
the house of Severus ; and the Roman jurisprudence, hav- 
ing closely united itself with the system of monarchy, was 
supposed to have attained its full maturity and perfection. 
The contemporaries of Severus, in the enjoyment of 
the peace and glory of his reign, forgave the cruelties by 
which it had been introduced. Posterity, who experienced 
the fatal effects of his maxims and example, justly consid- 
ered him as the principal author of the decline of the Roman 

i° Appian in Prooem. 

71 Dion Cassius seems to have written with no other view than to form these 
opinions into an historical system. The Pandects will show how assiduously the 
lawyers, on their side, labored in the cause of prerogative. 





The ascent to greatness, however steep and dangerous, 
may entertain an active spirit with the consciousness and 
exercise of its own powers ; but the possession of a throne 
could never yet afford a lasting satisfaction to an ambitious 
mind. This melancholy truth was felt and acknowledged 
by Severus. Fortune and merit had, from an humble sta- 
tion, elevated him to the first place among mankind. " He 
had been all things," as he said himself, " and all was of lit- 
tle value." \ Distracted with the care, not of acquiring, but 
of preserving an empire, oppressed with age and infirmities, 
careless of fame, 2 and satiated with power, all his prospects 
of life were closed. The desire of perpetuating the great- 
ness of his family was the only remaining wish of his am- 
bition and paternal tenderness. 

Like most of the Africans, Severus was passionately ad- 
dicted to the vain studies of magic and divination, deeply 
versed in the interpretation of dreams and omens, and per- 
fectly acquainted with the science of judicial astrology ; 
which, in almost every age, except the present, has main- 
tained its dominion over the mind of man. He had lost his 
first wife, while he was governor of the Lyonnese Gaul. 3 In 
the choice of a second, he sought only to connect himself 
with some favorite of fortune ; and as soon as he had discov- 
ered that the young lady of Emesa in Syria had a royal 
nativity, he solicited and obtained her hand. 4 Julia Domna 
(for that was her name) deserved all that the stars could 

1 Hist. Aug'ist. p. 71. " Omnia fui, et nihil expedit." 

2 Dion Cassius, 1. Ixxvi. p. 1284. 

3 About the year 186. M. de Tillemont is miserably embarrassed with a pas- 
sage of Dion, in which the empress Faustina, who died in the year 175, is intro- 
duced as having contributed to the marriage of Severus and Julia (1. lxxiv. p. 
124 ). The learned compiler forgot that Dion is relating not a real fact, hut a 
dream of Severus ; and dreams are circumscribed to no limits of time or space. 
Did M. de Tillemont imagine that marriages were consummated in the temple of 
Venus at Rome ? Hist, des Empereurs, torn. iii. p. 38'J. ttote 6. 

4 Hist. August, p. 65. 


promise her. She possessed, even in advanced age, the at- 
tractions of beauty, 5 and united to a lively imagination a 
firmness of mind, and strength of judgment, seldom bestowed 
on her sex. Her amiable qualities never made any deep 
impression on the dark and jealous temper of her husband ; 
but in her son's reign, she administered the principal affairs 
of the empire, with a prudence that supported his authority, 
and with a moderation that sometimes corrected his wild 
extravagancies. 6 Julia applied herself to letters and philos- 
ophy, with some success, and with the most splendid repu- 
tation. She was the patroness of every art, and the friend 
of every man of genius. 7 The grateful flattery of the learned 
has celebrated her virtues ; but if we may credit the scandal 
of ancient history, chastity was very far from being the 
most conspicuous virtue of the empress Julia. 8 

Two sons, Caracalla 9 and Geta, were the fruit of this 
marriage, and the destined heirs of the empire. The fond 
hopes of the father,, and of the Roman world, were soon dis- 
appointed by these vain youths, who displayed the indolent 
security of hereditary princes ; and a presumption that 
fortune would supply the place of merit and application. 
Without any emulation of virtue or talents, they discovered, 
almost from their infancy, a fixed and implacable antipathy 
for each other. 

Their aversion, confirmed by years, and fomented by 
the arts of their interested favorites, broke out in childish, 
and gradually in more serious,competitions ; and, at length, 
divided the theatre, the circus, and the court, into two fac- 
tions, actuated by the hopes and fears of their respective 
leaders. The prudent emperor endeavored, by every ex- 
pedient of advice and authority, to allay this growing ani- 
mosity. The unhappy discord of his sons clouded all his 
prospects, and threatened to overturn a throne raised with 
so much labor, cemented with so much blood, and guarded 
with every defence of arms and treasure. With an impar- 
tial hand he maintained between them an exact balance of 
favor, conferred on both the rank of Augustus, with the 

5 Hist. August, p. 5. 

Dion Cassius, 1. lxxvii. p. 1304, 1314. 

7 See a dissertation of Menage, at the end of his edition of Diogenes Laertius, 
de Foeminis Philosophis. 

e Dion, 1. lxxvi. p. 1285. Aurelius Victor. 

Bassianus was his first name, as it had been that of his maternal grandfather. 
During his reign, he assumed the appellation of Antoninus, which is employed 
by lawyers and ancient historians. After his dea:h, the public indignation 
loaded him with the nicknames of Tarantus and Caracalla. The first was bor- 
rowed from a celebrated Gladiator, the second from a long Gallic gown which he 
distributed to the people of Koine. 


revered name of Antoninus ; and for the first time the 
Roman world beheld three emperors. 1 * Yet even this equal 
conduct served only to inflame the contest, whilst the fierce 
Caracalla asserted the right of primogeniture, and the milder 
Geta courted the affections of the people and the soldiers. 
In the anguish of a disappointed father, Severus foretold 
that the weaker of his sons would fall a sacrifice to the 
stronger ; who, in his turn, would be ruined by his own 
vices. 11 

In these circumstances the intelligence of a war in Brit- 
ain, and of an invasion of the province by the barbarians 
of the North, was received with pleasure by Severus. Though 
the vigilance of his lieutenants might have been sufficient to 
repel the distant enemy, he resolved to embrace the honor- 
able pretext of withdrawing his sons from the luxury of 
Rome, which enervated their minds and irritated their pas- 
sions ; and of inuring their youth to the toils of war and 
government. Notwithstanding his advanced age (for he 
was above threescore), and his gout, which obliged him to 
be carried in a litter, he transported himself in person into 
that remote island, attended by his two sons, his whole 
court, and a formidable army. He immediately passed the 
walls of Hadrian and Antoninus, and entered the enemy's 
country, with a design of completing the long attempted 
conquest of Britain. He penetrated to the northern ex- 
tremity of the island, without meeting an enemy. But the 
concealed ambuscades of the Caledonians, who hung unseen 
on the rear and flanks of his army, the coldness of the cli- 
mate, and the severity of a winter march across the hills 
and morasses of Scotland, are reported to have cost the 
Romans above fifty thousand men. The Caledonians at 
length yielded to the powerful and obstinate attack, sued for 
peace, and surrendered a part of their arms, and a large tract 
of territory. But their apparent submission lasted no longer 
than the present terror. As soon as the Roman legions had 
retired, they resumed their hostile independence. Their 
restless spirit provoked Severus to send a new army into 
Caledonia, with the most bloody orders, not to subdue, but 
to extirpate the natives. They were saved by the death of 
their haughty enemy. 12 

10 The elevation of Caracalla is fixed by the accurate M. de Tillemont to the 
year VJH ; the association of Geta to the year 206. 

11 Herodian, 1. iii. p. 130. The lives of Caracalla and Geta, in the Augustau 

u Dion, 1. lxxvi. p. 1280, &c Herodian, 1. iii. p. 132, &c. 


This Caledonian war, neither marked by decisive events, 
nor attended with any important consequences, would ill 
deserve our attention ; but it is supposed, not without a con- 
siderable degree of probability, that the invasion of Severus 
is connected with the most shining period of the British 
history or fable. Fingal, whose fame, with that of his 
heroes and bards, has been revived in our language by a 
recent publication, is said to have commanded the Caledo- 
nians in that memorable juncture, to have eluded the power 
of Severus, and to have obtained a signal victory on the 
banks of the Carun, in which the son of the King of the 
World, Caracul, fled from his arms along the fields of his 
pride. 13 Something of a doubtful mist still hangs over 
these Highland traditions ; nor can it be entirely dispelled 
by the most ingenious researches of modern criticism ; 14 but 
if we could, with safety, indulge the pleasing supposition, 
that Fingal lived, and that Ossian sung, the striking con- 
trast of the situation and manners of the contending nations 
might amuse a philosophic mind. The parallel would be 
little to the advantage of the more civilized people if we 
compared the unrelenting revenge of Severus with the gen- 
erous clemency of Fingal; the timid and brutal cruelty of 
Caracalla with the bravery, the tenderness, the elegant ge- 
nius of Ossian ; the mercenary chiefs, who, from motives 
of fear or interest, served under the Imperial standard with 
the free-born warriors who started to arms at the voice of 
the king of Morven ; if, in a word, we contemplated the un- 
tutored Caledonians, glowing with the warm virtues of 
nature, and the degenerate Romans, polluted with the mean 
vices of wealth and slavery. 

The declining health and last illness of Severus inflamed 
the wild ambition and black passions of Caracalla's soul. 
Impatient of any delay or division of empire, he attempted, 

13 Ossian's Poems, vol. i. p. 175. 

14 That the Caiaeul of Ossian is the Caracalla of the Roman History, is, per- 
haps, the only point of British antiquity in which Mr. Macpherson and Mr. 
Wliitaker are of the same opinion ; and yet the opinion is not without difficulty. 
In the Caledonian war, the son of Severus was known only by the appellation of 
Antoninus, and it may seem strange that the Highland bard should describe him 
by a nickname, invented four years afterwards, scarcely used by the Romans tiJi 
after the death of that emperor, and seldom employed by the most ancient histo- 
rians. See Dion, 1. lxxvii. p. 1317. Hist. August, p. 8l>. Aurel. Victor. Euseb. 
in Chron. ad ami. 214.* 

* The historical authority of Macpherson's Ossian has not increased since 
Gibbon wrote. We may, indeed, consider it exploded. Mr. Whit aker, in a letter 
to Gibbon (Misc. Works, vol. ii. p. 100), attempts, not very successfully, to weaken 
this objection of the historian. — M. 


more than once, to shorten the small remainder of his 
father's clays, and endeavored, but without success, to excite 
a mutiny among the troops. 15 The old emperor had often 
censured the misguided lenity of Marcus, who, by a single 
act of justice, might have saved the Romans from the tyr- 
anny of his worthless son. Placed in the same situation, he 
experienced how easy the rigor of a judge dissolves away 
in the tenderness of a parent. He deliberated, he threat- 
ened, but he could not punish ; and this last and only in- 
stance of mercy was more fatal to the empire than a long 
series of cruelty. 16 The disorder of his mind irritated the 
pains of his body; he wished impatiently for death, and 
hastened the instant of it by his impatience. He expired 
at York in the sixty-fifth year of his life, and in the eigh- 
teenth of a glorious and successful reign. In his last 
moments he recommended concord to his sons, and his sons 
to the army. The salutary advice never reached the heart, 
or even the understanding, of the impetuous youths ; but 
the more obedient troops, mindful of their oath of allegi- 
ance, and of the authority of their deceased master, resisted 
the solicitations of Caracalla, and proclaimed both brothers 
emperors of Rome. The new princes soon left the Caledo- 
nians in peace, returned to the capital, celebrated their 
father's funeral with divine honors, and were cheerfully 
acknowledged as lawful sovereigns, by the senate, the peo- 
ple, and the provinces. Some preeminence of rank seems 
to have been allowed to the elder brother ; but they both 
administered the empire with equal and independent power. 17 
Such a divided form of government would have proved a 
source of discord between the most affectionate brothers. 
It w r as impossible that it could long subsist between two 
implacable enemies, who neither desired nor could trust a 
reconciliation. It was visible that one only could reign, and 
that the other must fall ; and each of them, judging of his 
rival's designs by his own, guarded his life with the most 
jealous vigilance from the repeated attacks of poison or the 
sword. Their rapid journey through Gaul and Italy, during 
which they never ate at the same table, or slept in the same 
house, displayed to the provinces the odious spectacle of 
fraternal discord. On their arrival at Rome, they immedi- 
ately divided the vast extent of the imperial palace. 18 No 

15 Dion, 1. lxxvi. p. 1282. Hist. August, p. 71. Aurel. Victor. 

10 Dion, 1. lxxvi. p. 1283. Hist. August, p. 89. 

17 Dion, 1. lxxvi. p. 1584. JTerorlum, 1. iii. p. 135. 

* 8 Mr. Hume is justly surprised at a passage of Herodian (1. iv. p. 139), who. 


communication was allowed between their apartments ; the 
doors and passages were diligently fortified, and guards 
posted and relieved with the same strictness as in a besieged 
place. The emperors met only in public, in the presence of 
their afflicted mother; and each surrounded by a numerous 
train of armed folloAvers. Even on these occasions of cere- 
mony, the dissimulation of courts could ill disguise the ran- 
cor of their hearts. 19 

This latent civil war already distracted the whole gov- 
ernment, when a scheme was suggested that seemed of 
mutual benefit to the hostile brothers. It was proposed, 
that since it was impossible to reconcile their minds, they 
should separate their interest, and divide the empire between 
them. The conditions of the treaty were already drawn 
with some accuracy. It was agreed, that Caracalla, as the 
elder brother, should remain in possession of Europe and 
the western Africa ; and that he should relinquish the sov- 
ereignty of Asia and Egypt to Geta, who might fix his resi- 
dence at Alexandria or Antioch, cities little inferior to 
Rome itself in wealth and greatness ; that numerous armies 
should be constantly encamped on either side of the Thracian 
Bosphorus, to guard the frontiers of the rival monarchies; 
and that the senators of European extraction should 
acknowledge the sovereign of Rome, whilst the natives of 
Asia followed the emperor of the East. The tears of the 
empress Julia interrupted the negotiation, the first idea of 
which had filled every Roman breast with surprise and 
indignation. The mighty mass of conquest was so inti- 
mately united by the hand of time and policy, that it re- 
quired the most forcible violence to rend it asunder. The 
Romans had reason to dread, that the disjointed members 
would soon be reduced by a civil war under the dominion of 
one master ; but if the separation was permanent, the divi- 

on this occasion, represents the Imperial palace as equal in extent to the rest of 
Rome. The whole region of the Palatine Mount, on which it was built, occu- 
pi id, at most, a circumference of eleven or twelve thousand feet (see the Notitia 
and Victor, in Nardini's Roma Antica). But we should recollect that the opulent 
senators had almost surrounded the city with their extensive gardens and suburb 
palaces, the greatest part of which had been gradually confiscated by the em- 
peror*. If Geta resided in the gardens that bore his name on the Janiculum, 
and if Caracalla inhabited the gardens of Maecenas on the Esquiline. the rival 
brothers were separated from each other by the distance of several miles; and 
yet the intermediate space was filled by the Imperial gardens of Sallust, of Lu- 
cullus, of Agrippa. of Domiiian, of Cains, &c., all skirting round the city, and all 
connected with each other, and with the palace, by bridges thrown over the Tiber 
and the streets. But this explanation of Herodian would require, though if ill 
deserves, a particular dissertation, illustrated by a map of Ancient home. 
(Hume, Fssay on Populonsness of Ancient Nations.— M.) 
19 Herodian, 1. iv. p. lb'J. 


sion of the provinces must terminate in the dissolution of an 
empire whose unity had hitherto remained inviolate. 20 

Had the treaty been carried into execution, the sovereign 
of Europe might soon have been the conqueror of Asia ; but 
Caracal la obtained an easier, though a more guilty, victory. 
He artfully listened to his mother's entreaties, and consented 
to meet his brother in her apartment, on terms of peace and 
reconciliation. In the midst of their conversation, some 
centurions, who had contrived to conceal themselves, rushed 
with drawn swords upon the unfortunate Geta. His dis- 
tracted mother strove to protect him in her arms ; but, in 
the unavailing struggle, she was wounded in the hand, and 
covered with the blood of her younger son, while she saw 
the elder animating and assisting 21 the furv of the assassins. 
As soon as the deed was perpetrated, Caracalln, with hasty 
steps, and horror in his countenance, ran towards the Praeto- 
rian camp, as his only refuge', and threw himself on the 
ground before the statues of the tutelar deities. 22 The sol- 
diers attempted to raise and comfort him. In broken and 
disordered words he informed them of his imminent danger 
and fortunate escape ; insinuating that he had prevented the 
designs of his enemy, and declared his resolution to live and 
die with his faithful troops. Geta had been the favorite of 
the soldiers ; but complaint was useless, revenge was dan- 
gerous, and they still reverenced the son of Severus. Their 
discontent died away in idle murmurs, and Caracalla soon 
convinced them of the justice of his cause, by distributing 
in one lavish donative the accumulated treasures of his 
father's reign. 23 The real sentiments of the soldiers alone 
were of importance to his power or safety. Their declara- 
tion in his favor commanded the dutiful professions of the 
senate. The obsequious assembly was always prepared to 
ratify the decision of fortune ; * but as Caracalla wished to 

20 Herodian, 1. iv. p. 144. 

21 Caracalla consecrate" 1, in the temple of Serapis, the sword with which, as he 
boasted, he had slain his brother Geta- Dion, 1. lxxvii. p. 1307. 

- 2 Herodian, 1. iv. p. 147. In every Roman camp there was a small chapel near 
the head-quarters, in which the statues of the tutelar deities were preserved and 
adored, and we may remark, that the eagles, and other military ensigns, were in 
the first rank of these deities ; an excellent institution, which confirmed discip- 
line by the sanction of religion. See Lipsius de Militia Roniana, iv. 5, v. 2. 

23 Herodian, 1. iv. p. 148. Dion. 1. lxxvii. p. 1289. 

* The account of this transaction, in a new passage of Dion, varies in some 
deiree from this statement. It adds that the next morning, in the senate. Anto- 
ninus requested their indulgence, not because he had killed his brother, but be- 
cause he was hoarse, and could not address them. Mai. Fragm. Vatican, p. 228. 
— M. 


assuage the first emotions of public indignation, the name 
of Geta was mentioned with decency, and he received the 
funeral honors of a Roman emperor. 24 Posterity, in pity to 
his misfortune, has cast a veil over his vices. We consider 
that voting prince as the innocent victim of his brother's 
ambition, without recollecting that he himself wanted power, 
father than inclination, to consummate the same attempts of 
revenge and murder.* 

The crime went not unpunished. Neither business, nor 
pleasure, nor flattery, could defend Caracalla from the stings 
of a guilty conscience ; and he confessed, in the anguish of 
a tortured mind, that his disordered fancy often beheld the 
angry forms of his father and his brother rising into life, to 
threaten and upbraid him. 25 The consciousness of his crime 
should have induced him to convince mankind, by the vir- 
tues of his reign, that the bloody deed had been the involun- 
tary effect of fatal necessity. But the repentance of Cara- 
calla only prompted him to remove from the world what- 
ever could remind him of his guilt, or recall the memory of 
his murdered brother. On his return from the senate to the 
palace, he found his mother in the company of several noble 
matrons, weeping over the untimely fate of her younger 
son. The jealous emperor threatened them with instant 
death ; the sentence was executed against Fadilla, the last 
remaining daughter of the emperor Marcus; f and even the 
afflicted Julia was obliged to silence her lamentations, to 
suppress her sighs, and to receive the assassin with smiles of 
joy and approbation. It was computed that, under the 
vague appellation of the friends of Geta, above twenty 
thousand persons of both sexes suffered death. His guards 

24 Geta was placed among the gods. Sit divus, dum non sit vivits, said his 
brother. Hist. August, p. 91. Some marks of Geta's consecration are still 
found upon medals. 

25 Dion, 1. lxxvii. p. 1307. 

* The favorable judgment which history has given of Geta is not founded sole- 
ly on a feeling of pity ; it is supported by the testimony of contemporary histo- 
rians: he was too fond of the pleasures of the table, and showed great mistrust of 
his brother ; but he was humane, well instructed ; he often endeavored to miti- 
gate the rigorous decrees of Severus and Caracalla. Herod, iv. o. Spartian in 
Geta.— W. 

t The most valuable paragraph of Dion, which the industry of M. Mai has re- 
covered, relates to this daughter of Marcus, executed by Caracalla. Her name, 
as appears from Fronto, as well as fiom Dion, was Corniticia. When com- 
manded to choose the kind of death she was to surfer, she burst into womanish 
teas; but remembering her father Marcus, she thus spoke :— " O my hapless 
soul (<Uv\fj' &10V, animula), now imprisoned in the body, burst forth ! be free ! 
show tlr^m, however reluctant to believe it, that thou art the daughter of Mar- 
cus." She then laid aside all her ornaments, and preparing herself for death, or- 
dered her veins to be opened. Mai. Fragm. Vatican, ii. p. 230. — M. 


and freedmen, the ministers of his serious business, and the 
companions of his looser hours, those who by his interest 
had been promoted to any commands in the army or prov- 
inces, with the long-connected chain of their dependants, 
were included in -the proscription ; which endeavored to 
reach every one who had maintained the smallest corres- 
pondence with Geta, who lamented his death, or who even 
mentioned his name. 26 Helvius Pertinax, son to the prince 
of that name, lost his life by an unseasonable witticism. 27 
It was a sufficient crime of Thrasea Priscus to be descended 
from a family in which the love of liberty seemed an heredi- 
tary quality. 28 The particular causes of calumny and sus- 
picion were at length exhausted; and when a senator was 
accused of being a secret enemy to the government, the em- 
peror was satisfied with the general proof that he was a 
man of property and virtue. From this well-grounded prin- 
ciple he frequently drew the most bloody inferences. f 

The execution of so many innocent citizens was bewailed 
by the secret tears of their friends and families. The death 
of Papinian, the Praetorian Proefect, was lamented as a public 
calamity.^ During the last seven years of Severus, he had 
exercised the most important offices of the state, and, by his 
salutary influence, guided the emperor's steps in the paths 
of justice and moderation. In full assurance of his virtue 
and abilities, Severus, on his death-bed, had conjured him 
to watch over the prosperity and union of the Imperial 
family. 29 The honest labors of Papinian served only to 

20 Dion, 1. Ixxvii. p. 1290. Herodian, 1. iv. p. 150. Dion (p. 1298) says, that the 
comic poets no longer durst employ the name of Geta in their plays, and that the 
estates of these who mentioned it in their testaments were confiscated. 

-• Caracalla had assumed the names of several conquered nations; Pertinax 
observed, that the name of Geticus (he had obtained some advantage over the 
Goths, or Getce) would be a proper addition to Parthicus, Alemannicus, &c. Hist. 
August, p. 89. 

-< Dion, 1. Ixxvii. p. 1291. He was probably descended from Helvidius Priscus, 
and Thrasea Paetus, those patriots, whose firm, but useless and unseasonable, 
virtue has been immortalized by Tacitus.* 

2a It is said that Papinian was himself a relation of the empress Julia. 

* M. Guizot is indignant at this " cold" observation of Gibbon on the noble 
character of Thrasea ; but he admits that his virtue was useless to the public, and 
unseasonable, amidst the vices of his age. — M. 

'r Caracalla reproached all those who demanded no favors of him. " It is clear 
that if you make me no requests, you do not trust me ; if you do not trust me, 
you suspect me ; if you suspect me, you fear me ; if you fear me, you hate me." 
And forthwith he condemned them as conspirators. A good specimen of the 
sorites in a tyrant's logic. See Fragm. Vatican, p. 230.— M. 

% Papinian was no longer Praetorian Prefect. Caracalla had deprived him of 
that office immediately after the death of Severus. Such is the statement of 
Dion ; and the testimony of Spaitian, who gives Papinian the Praetorian pre- 
fecture till bis death, is of little weight opposed to that of a e.ittor then living 
at Rome.— W. 


inflame the hatred which Caracalla had already conceived 
against his father's minister. After the murder of Geta, the 
Praefect was commanded to exert the powers of his skill and 
eloquence in a studied apology for that atrocious deed. The 
philosophic Seneca had condescended to compose a similar 
epistle to the senate, in the name of the son and assassin of 
Agrippina. 30 "That it was easier to commit than to justify 
a parricide," was the glorious reply of Papinian ; 31 who did 
not hesitate between the loss of life and that of honor. 
Such intrepid virtue, which had escaped pure and unsullied 
from the intrigues of courts, the habits of business, and the 
arts of his profession, reflects more lustre on the memory of 
Papinian, than all his great employments, his numerous 
writings, and the superior reputation as a lawyer, which he 
has preserved through every age of the Roman jurispru- 
dence. 32 

It had hitherto been the peculiar felicity of the Romans, 
and in the worst of times the consolation, that the virtue of 
the emperors was active, and their vice indolent. Augus- 
tus, Trajan, Hadrian, and Marcus visited their extensive 
dominions in person, and their progress was marked by acts 
of wisdom and beneficence. The tyranny of Tiberius, Nero, 
and Domitian, who resided almost constantly at Rome, or 
in the adjacent villas, was confined to the senatorial and 
equestrian orders. 33 But Caracalla was the common enemy 
of mankind. He left the capital (and he never returned to 
it) about a year after the murder of Geta. The rest of his 
reign was spent in the several provinces of the empire, par- 
ticularly those of the East, and every province was by turns 
the scene of his rapine and cruelty. The senators, compelled 
by fear to attend his capricious motions, were obliged to 
provide daily entertainments at an immense expense, which 
he abandoned with contempt to his guards ; and to erect, 
in every city, magnificent palaces and theatres, which lie 
either disdained to visit, or ordered to be immediately 
thrown down. The most wealthy families were ruined by 
partial fines and confiscations, and the great body of his 
subjects oppressed by ingenious and aggravated taxes. 34 

3 J Tacit. Annal. xiv. 2. 
3i Hist. August, p. 88. 

32 With regard to Papinian, see Heineccius's Historia Juris Romani, 1. 330, 

33 Tiberius and Domitian never moved from the neighborhood of Rome. Nero 
made :i short journey into Greece. '• Et laudatorum Principum usus ex aequo, 
quamvis procul agentibus. Ssevi proximis ingruunt." Tacit. Hist. iv. 74. 

34 Dion, I. lxxvii. p. 1294. 


In the midst of peace, and upon the slightest provocation, 
he issued his commands, at Alexandria, in Egypt, for a gen- 
eral massacre. From a secure post in the temple of Serapis, 
lie viewed and directed the slaughter of many thousand 
citizens, as well as strangers, without distinguishing either 
the number or the crime of the sufferers ; since, as he coolly 
informed the senate, all the Alexandrians, those who had 
perished, and those who had escaped, were alike guilty. 33 

The wise instructions of Severus never made any lasting 
impression on the mind of his son, who, although not desti- 
tute of imagination and eloquence, was equally devoid of 
judgment and humanity. 33 One dangerous maxim, worthy 
of a tyrant, was remembered and abused by Caracal la. 
" To secure the affections of the army, and to esteem the 
rest of his subjects as of little moment." 37 But the liberal- 
ity of the father had been restrained by prudence, and his 
indulgence to the troops was tempered by firmness and 
authority. The careless profusion of the son was the policy 
of one reign, and the inevitable ruin both of the army and 
of the empire. The vigor of the soldiers, instead of being 
confirmed by the severe discipline of camps, melted away 
in the luxury of cities. The excessive increase of their pay 
and donatives 38 exhausted the state to enrich the military 

35 Dion, 1. lxxvii. p. 1307. Herodian, 1. iv. p. 158. The former represents it as 
a cruel massacre, the latter as a perfidious one too. It seems probable, that the 
Alexandrians had irritated the tyrant by their railleries and perhaps by their 

* Dion, 1. lxxvii. p. 1296. 

37 Dion, 1. lxxvi. p. 1284. Mr. Wotton (Hist of Rome, p. 330) suspects that this 
maxim was invented by Caracalla himself, and attributed to his father. 

' M Dion (1. lxxviii. p. 1313) informs us that the extraordinary giftsof Caracalla 
to the army amounted annually to seventy millions of drachmae (about two mil- 
lions three hundred and fifty thonsmd pounds). There is another passage in 
Dion, concerning the military pay, infinitely curious, were it not ob-eure, im- 
perfect, and probably corrupt. The best sense seems to be. that the Praetorian 
guards received twelve hundred and fifty drachmae (forty pounds a \ear) (Dion, 
1. lxxvii. p. 13t)7). Under the reign of Augustus, they were paid at the rate of 
two drachmae, or denarii, per day, 720 a year (Tacit. Annal. i. 17). Domitian, 
who increased the soldiers' pay one-fourth, must have raised the Praetorians to 
960 drachmae (Gronovius de Pecunia Veteri, 1. iii. c. 2). These successive aug- 
mentations ruined the empire ; for, with the soldiers' pay, their numbers too 
were increased. We have seen the Praetorians alone increased from 10,000 to 
50,000 men.f 

* After these massacres, Caracalla also deprived the Alexandrians of ttVir 
spectacles and public feasts ; he divided the city into two parts by a wall, with 
towers at intervals, to prevent the peaceful communications of the citizens. 
Thus was treated the unhappy Alexandria, says Di-m. Iv the savage beast of 
Ausonia. This, in fact, was the epithet which the oracle had applied to him : it 
is said, indeed, that he was much pleased with the name, and often boasted of it. 
Dion, lxxvii. p. 1 107.— G- 

t Valois and Keimar have explained in a very simple and probable manner 
this passage of Dion, which Gibbon seems to me n^t to have understood, O ari-b? 

TOt? o"Tpartu)Tais a0\a tt}? a t par etas, toi? fxev ei' Tw 8opv(f)OpiKw r<-Ta-yu.ei'0i<r t? ^(.A-a? 
Sta/cocrias Snr6VTr\KOvra f roirj Se jret'Ta/ctcr^iAias Aa/u/3 ay £(.»>. He Ordered that the sol- 


order, whose modesty in peace, and service in war, is best 
secured by an honorable poverty. The demeanor of Car- 
acalla was haughty and full of pride ; but with the troops 
he forgot even the proper dignity of his rank, encouraged 
their insolent familiarity, and, neglecting the essential duties 
of a general, affected to imitate the dress and manners of a 
common soldier. 

It was impossible that such a character, and such conduct 
as that of Caracalla, could inspire either love or esteem ; but 
as long as his vices were beneficial to the armies, he was 
secure from the danger of rebellion. A secret conspiracy, 
provoked by his own jealousy, was fatal to the tyrant. The 
Praetorian prefecture was divided between two ministers. 
The . military department was intrusted to Advencus, an 
experienced rather than able soldier; and the civil affairs 
were transacted by Opilius Macrinus, who, by his dexterity 
in business, had raised himself, with a fair character, to that 
high office. But his favor varied with the caprice of the 
emperor, and his life might depend on the slightest sus- 
picion, or the most casual circumstance. Malice or fanat- 
icism had suggested to an African, deeply skilled in the 
knowledge of futurity, a very dangerous prediction, that 
Macrinus and his son were destined to reign over the 
empire. The report was soon diffused through the province; 
and when the man was sent in chains to Rome, he still as- 
serted, in the presence of the prsefect of the city, the faith 
of his prophecy. That magistrate, who had received the 
most pressing instructions to inform himself of the succes- 
sors of Caracalla, immediately communicated the examin- 
ation of the African to the Imperial court, which at that 
time resided in Syria. But, notwithstanding the diligence 
of the public messengers, a friend of Macrinus found means 
to apprise him of the approaching danger. The emperor 
received the letters from Rome : and as he was then engaged 
in the conduct of a chariot race, he delivered them unopened 

diers should receive, as the reward of their services, the Praetorians 1250 drachms, 
the others 5000 drachms. Valois thinks that the numbers have been transposed, 
and that Caracalla added 5000 drachms to the donations made to the Pi-aetorians, 
1250 to those of th,« legionari :s. The Praetorians, in fact, always received more 
than the others. The error of Gibbon arose from his considering that this re- 
ferred to the annua! pay of the soldiers, while it relates to the sum they received 
as a reward for their services on their discharge : o.fikov tt)? ctoothoc means 
recompense for service. Augustus had s tiled that the Pr.'etorians. after six 
teen campaigns, should receive 500 > drachms : the legion.iries received only 
3000 after twenty years. Caracalla added 5000 drachms to the donative of the 
Pranorians, 1250 to that of the h'gionaries. Gibbon appears to have been mis- 
taken both in confounding this donative on discharge with the annual pay, 
and in not paying attention to the remark of Valois on the transposition of the 
numbers iu the text. — G. 


to the Praetorian Prefect, directing him to despatch the 
ordinary affairs, and to report the more important business 
that might be contained in them. Maerinus read his fate, 
and resolved to prevent it. He inflamed the discontents of 
some inferior officers, and employed the hand of Martialis, 
a desperate soldier, who had been refused the rank of cen- 
turion. The devotion of Caracalla prompted him to make 
a pilgrimage from Edessa to the celebrated temple of the 
Moon at Carrhae.* He was attended by a body of cavalry ; 
but having stopped on the road for some necessary occasion, 
his guards preserved a respectful distance, and Martialis, 
approaching his person under a pretence of duty, stabbed 
him with a dagger. The bold assassin was instantly killed 
by a Scythian archer of the Imperial guard. Such was the 
end of a monster whose life disgraced human nature, and 
whose reign accused the patience of the Romans. 39 The 
grateful soldiers forgot his vices, remembered only his 
partial liberality, and obliged the senate to prostitute their 
own dignity and that of religion, by granting him a place 
among the gods. Whilst he was upon earth, Alexander the 
Great was the only hero whom this god deemed worthy his 
admiration. He assumed the name and ensigns of Alex- 
ander, formed a Macedonian phalanx of guards, persecuted 
the disciples of Aristotle, and displayed, with a puerile 
enthusiasm, the only sentiment by which he discovered any 
regard for virtue or glory. We can easily conceive, that 
after the battle of Narva, and the conquest of Poland, 
Charles XII. (though he still wanted the more elegant ac- 
complishments of the son of Philip) might boast of having 
rivalled his valor and magnanimity; but in no one action 
of his life did Caracalla express the faintest resemblance of 
the Macedonian hero, except in the murder of a great 
number of his own and of his father's friends. 40 

After the extinction of the house of Severus, the Roman 
world remained three days without a master. The choice 
of the army (for the authority of a distant and feeble senate 
was little regarded) hung in anxious suspense, as no candi- 

39 Dion, 1. lxxviii. p. 1312. Herodian, 1. iv. p. 1G8. 

40 The fondness of Caracalla for the name and ensigns of Alexander is still 
preserved on tbe medals of that emperor. See Spanheim, de Usu Nnmismatuni, 
Dissertat. xii. Herodian (1. iv. p. 154) ha 1 seen very ridiculous pictures, in which 
a figure was drawn with one side of the face like Alexander, and the other like 

* Carrhae, now Harran, between Edessa and Nisibis, famous for the defeat of 
Crassus— the Haran from whence Abrahnm set out for the land of Canaan. This 
city has always been remarkable for its attachment to Sabaism. — G. 


date presented himself whose distinguished birth and ! merit 
could engage their attachment and unite their suffrages. 
The decisive weight of the Praetorian guards elevated the 
hopes of their praefects, and these powerful ministers began 
to assert their legal claim to fill the vacancy of the Imperial 
throne. Adventus, however, the senior praefect, conscious 
of his age and his infirmities, of his small reputation, and 
bis smaller abilities, resigned the dangerous honor to the 
crafty ambition of his colleague Macrinus, whose well-dis- 
sembled grief removed all suspicion of his being accessory 
to his master's death. 41 The troops neither loved nor 
esteemed his character. They cast their eyes around in 
search of a competitor, and at last yielded with reluctance 
to his promises of unbounded liberality and indulgence. A 
short time after his accession, he conferred on his son 
Diadumenianus, at the age of only ten years, the Imperial 
title and the popular name of Antoninus. The beautiful 
figure of the youth, assisted by an additional donative, for 
which the ceremony furnished a pretext, might attract, it , 
was hoped, the favor of the army, and secure the doubtful 
throne of Macrinus. 

The authority of the new sovereign had been ratified by 
the cheerful submission of the senate and provinces. They 
exulted in their unexpected deliverance from abated tyrant, 
and it seemed of little consequence to examine into the 
virtues of the successor of Caracalla. But as soon as the 
first transports of joy and surprise had subsided, they 
bepran to scrutinize the merits of Macrinus with a critical 
severity, and to arraign the hasty choice of the army. It 
had hitherto been considered as a fundamental maxim of 
the constitution, that the emperor must be always ohosen in 
the senate, and the sovereign power, no longer exercised by 
the whole body, was always delegated to one of its mem- 
bers. But Macrinus was not a senator. 42 The sudden 
elevation of the Praetorian praefects betrayed the meanness 
of their origin ; and the equestrian order was still in pos- 
session of that great office, which commanded with arbitrary 
sway the lives and fortunes of the senate. A murmur of 

A Herodian, 1. iv. p. 160. Hist. August, p. 94. 

*- Dion, 1. lxxxviii. p. 1350. Elagabalus reproached his predecessor with dar- 
ing to seat himself on the throno ; though, as Praetorian prefect, he could not 
have been admitted into the senate after the voice of the crier had cleared the 
house. The personal favor of Plautianus and Sejanus had broke through the es- 
tablished rule. They rose, indeed, from the equestrian order ; but they preserved 
the prefecture, with the rank of senator, and even with the consulship. 



indignation was heard, that a man whose obscure 43 extrac- 
tion had never been illustrated by any signal service should 
dare to invest himself with the purple, instead of bestowing 
it on some distinguished senator, equal in birth and dignity 
to the splendor of the Imperial station. As soon as the 
character of Macrinus was surveyed by the sharp eye of 
discontent, some vices, and many defects, were easily dis- 
covered. The choice of his ministers was in many instances 
justly censured, and the dissatisfied people, with their^usual 
candor, accused at once his indolent tameness and his exces- 
sive severity. 44 

His rash ambition had climbed a height where it was 
difficult to stand with firmness, and impossible to fall without 
instant destruction. Trained in the arts of courts and the 
forms of civil business, he trembled in the presence of the 
fierce and undisciplined multitude, over whom he had 
assumed the command ; his military talents were despised, 
and his personal courage suspected ; a whisper that circu- 
lated in the camp disclosed the fatal secret of the conspiracy 
against the late emperor, aggravated the guilt of murder by 
the baseness of hypocrisy, and heightened contempt by 
detestation. To alienate the soldiers, and to provoke in- 
evitable ruin, the character of a reformer was only wanting ; 
and such was the peculiar hardship of his fate, that Macrinus 
was compelled to exercise that invidious office. The prodi- 
gality of Caracalla had left behind it a long train of ruin 
and disorder ; and if that worthless tyrant had been capable 
of reflecting on the sure consequences of his own conduct, 
he would perhaps have enjoyed the dark prospect of the 
distress and calamities which he bequeathed to his suc- 

In the management of this necessary reformation, Macri- 
nus proceeded with a cautious prudence which would have 
restored health and vigor to the Roman army in an easy 
and almost imperceptible manner. To the soldiers already 
engaged in the service he was constrained to leave the 
dangerous privileges and extravagant pay given by Cara- 

43 He was a native of Csesarea, in Numidia, and began his fortune by serving 
in the house-bold of Plautian, from whose ruin be narrowly escaped. His ene- 
mies asserted tbat lie was born a slave, and had exercised, among other infamous 
professions, that of Gladiator. The fashion of aspersing the birth and condition 
of an adversary seems to have lasted from the timj of the Greek orators to the 
learned grammarians of the last age. 

44 Both Dion find JTerodian speak of the virtues and vices of Macrinus with 
candor and impartiality: but the author of his life, in the Augustan History, 
seems to have implicitly copied some of the venal writers employed by Elagaba- 
lus to blacken the memory of his predecessor. 


call a ; but the new reernits were received on the more 
moderate though liberal establishment of Severus, and jrradu- 
ally formed to modesty and obedience. 45 One fatal error 
destroyed the salutary effects of this judicious plan. The 
numerous army assembled in the East by the late emperor, 
instead of being immediately dispersed by Macrinus through 
the several provinces, was suffered to remain united in 
Syria during the winter that followed his elevation. In 
the luxurious idleness of their quarters, the troops viewed 
their strength and numbers, communicated their complaints, 
and revolved in their minds the advantages of another 
revolution. The veterans, instead of being nattered by the 
advantageous distinction, were alarmed by the first steps of 
the emperor, which they considered as the presage of his 
future intentions. The recruits, with sullen reluctance, 
entered on a service, whose labors were increased while its 
rewards were diminished by a covetous and unwarlike 
sovereign. The murmurs of the army swelled with impu- 
nity into seditious clamors ; and the partial mutinies be- 
trayed a spirit of discontent and disaffection, that waited 
only for the slightest occasion to break out on every side 
into a general rebellion. To minds thus disposed the occa- 
sion soon presented itself. 

The empress Julia had experienced all the vicissitudes 
of fortune. From an humble station she had been raised 
to greatness, only to taste the superior bitterness of an 
exalted rank. She was doomed to weep over the death of 
one of her sons, and over the life of the other. The cruel 
fate of Caracalla, though her good sense must have long 
taught her to expect it, awakened the feelings of a mother 
and of an empress. Notwithstanding the respectful civility 
expressed by the usurper towards the widow of Severus, 
she descended with a painful struggle into the condition of 
a subject, and soon withdrew herself, by a voluntary death, 
from the anxious and humiliating dependence. 46 # Julia 

*> Dion, 1. lxxxiii. p. 1336. The sense of the author is as clear as the intention 
of the emperor; hut Mr. Wotton his mistaken both, hy understanding the dis- 
tinction, not of veterans and recruits, but of old and new legions. History of 
Home, p. 317. 

46 Dion, 1. lxxviii. p. 1330. The abridgment of Xiphilin, though less particu- 
lar, i i in this place clearer than the original. 

* As soon as this princess heard of the death of Caracalla, she wished to 
starve herself to death : the respect shown to her by Macrinus, in making no 
change in her attendants or her court, induced her to prolong her life. But it 
appears, as far as the mutilated text of Dion and the imperfect epitome of Xiph- 
ilin permit us to judge, that she conceived projects of ambition, and endeavored 
to raise her3 If to the empire. She wished "to tread in the steps of Scmiramis 


Msesa, her sister, was ordered to leave the court and An- 
tioch. She retired to Emesa with an immense fortune, the 
fruit of twenty years' favor, accompanied by her two 
daughters, Sosemias and Mamaea, each of whom was a 
widow, and each had an only son. Bassianus,* for that 
was the name of the son of Soaemias, was consecrated to 
the honorable ministry of high priest of the Sun ; and this 
holy vocation, embraced either from prudence or supersti- 
tion, contributed to raise the Syrian youth to the empire of 
Home. A numerous body of troops was stationed at 
Emesa; and, as the severe discipline of Macrinus had con- 
strained them to pass the winter encamped, they were eager 
to revenge the cruelty of such unaccustomed hardships. 
The soldiers, who resorted in crowds to the temple of the 
Sun, beheld with veneration and delight the elegant dress 
and figure of the young pontiff ; they recognized, or they 
thought that they recognized, the features of Caracalla, 
whose memory they now adored. The artful Maes a saw 
and cherished their rising partiality, and, readily sacrificing 
her daughter's reputation to the fortune of her grandson, 
she insinuated that Bassianus was the natural son of their 
murdered sovereign. The sums distributed by her emis- 
saries with a lavish hand silenced every objection, and the 
profusion sufficiently proved the affinity, or at least the 
resemblance, of Bassianus with the great original. The 
\ r oung Antoninus (for lie had assumed and polluted that 
respectable name) was declared emperor by the troops of 
Emesa, asserted his hereditary right, and called aloud on 
the armies to follow the standard of a young and liberal 
prince, who had taken up arms to revenge his father's death 
and the oppression of the military order. 47 

v According to Lampridius (Hist. August, p. 135), Alexander Severus lived 
twenty-nine years three months and seven days. As he was killed March 19, 235, 
he was born December 12, 205. and was consequently about this time thirteen 
years old, as his elder cousin might be about seventeen. This computation suits 
much better the history of the young princes than that of Herodian (1. v. p. 181), 
who represents them as three years younger; whilst, by an opposite error of 
chronology, he lengthens the reign of Elagabalus two years beyond its real dura- 
tion. For the particulars of the conspiracy, see Dion, 1. lxxviii. p. 1339. Hero- 
dian, 1. v. p. 18L 

and Nitocris, whose country bordered on her own. Macrinus sent her an order 
immediately to leave Antioch, and to retire wherever she chose. She returned to 
her former purpose, and starved herself to death. — G. 

* He inherited this name from bis great-grandfather on the mother's side, Bas- 
sianus, father of Julia Maesa, his grandmother, and of -Julia Domna, wife of Sev- 
erus. Victor (in his epitome) is perhaps the only historian who has given the key 
to this genealogy, when speaking of Caracalla Hie Bassianus ex avi materni 
nomine dictus. Caracalla, Elagabalus,and Alexander Severus, bore successively 
this name. — G. 


Whilst a conspiracy of women and eunuchs was concerted 
with prudence, and conducted with rapid vigor, Macrinus, 
who, by a decisive motion, might have crushed his infant 
enemy, floated between the opposite extremes of terror and 
security, which alike fixed him inactive at Antioch. A spirit 
of rebellion diffused itself through all the camps and garri- 
sons of Syria; successive detachments murdered their of- 
ficers, 48 and joined the party of the rebels; and the tardy 
restitution of military pay and privileges was imputed to 
the acknowledged weakness of Macrinus. At length he 
marched out of Antioch, to meet the increasing and zealous 
army of the young pretender. His own troops seemed to 
take the field with faintness and reluctance ; but, in the heat 
of the battle, 49 the Proatorian guards, almost by an involun- 
tary impulse, asserted the superiority of their valor and dis- 
cipline. The rebel ranks were broken ; when the mother 
and grandmother of the Syrian prince, who, according to 
their eastern custom, had attended the army, threw them- 
selves from their covered chariots, and, by exciting the com- 
passion of the soldiers, endeavored to animate their droop- 
ing courage. Antoninus himself, who, in the rest of his 
life, never acted like a man, in this important crisis of his 
fate approved himself a hero, mounted his horse, and, at 
the head of his rallied troops, charged sword in hand among 
the thickest of the enemy.; whilst the eunuch Gannys,* 
whose occupations had been confined to female cares and 
the soft luxury of Asia, displayed the talents of an able and 
experienced general. The battle still raged with doubtful 
violence, and Macrinus might have obtained the victory, 
had he not betrayed his own cause by a shameful and pre- 
cipitate flight. His cowardice served only to protract his 
life a few days, and to stamp deserved ignominy on his mis- 
fortunes. It is scarcely necessary to add that his son 
Diadumenianus was involved in the same fate. As soon as 
the stubborn Praetorians could be convinced that they fought 
for a prince who had basely deserted them, they surrendered 
to the conqueror : the contending parties of the Roman 
army, mingling tears of joy and tenderness, united under 

4 3 By a most dangerous proclamation of the pretended Antoninus, every sol- 
dier who brought in his officers head became entitled to his private estate, as 
well as to his military commission. 

49 Dion, 1. lxxviii. p. 1345. Herodian, 1. v. p. ISfi. The battle was foughtnear 
the village of Inimae, about two-and-twenty miles from Antioch. 

* Gannys was not a eunuch. Dion, p. 1355.— W. 


the banners of the imagined son of Caracalla, and the East 
acknowledged with pleasure the first emperor of Asiatic 

The letters of Macrinus had condescended to inform the 
senate of the slight disturbance occasioned by an impostor 
in Syria, and a decree immediately passed, declaring the 
rebel and his family public enemies ; with a promise of 
pardon, however, to such of his deluded adherents as should 
merit it by an immediate return to their duty. During the 
twenty days that elapsed from the declaration to the victory 
of Antoninus (for in so short an interval was the fate of the 
Roman world decided), the capital and the provinces, more 
especially those of the East, were distracted with hopes and 
fears, agitated with tumult, and stained with a useless 
effusion of civil blood, since whosoever of the rivals pre- 
vaded in Syria must reign over the empire. The specious 
letters in which the young conqueror announced his victory 
to the obedient senate were filled with professions of virtue 
and moderation ; the shining examples of Marcus and 
Augustus he should ever consider as the great rule of his 
administration ; and he affected to dwell with pride on the 
striking resemblance of his own aoe and fortunes with those 
of Augustus, who in the earliest youth had revenged, by a 
successful war, the murder of his father. By adopting the 
style of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, son of Antoninus and 
grandson of Severus, he tacitly asserted his hereditary claim 
to the empire ; but, by assuming the tribunitian and procon- 
sular powers before they had been conferred on him by a 
decree of the senate, he offended the delicacy of Roman pre- 
judice. This new and injudicious violation of the constitu- 
tion was probably dictated either by the ignorance of his 
Syrian courtiers, or the fierce disdain of his military fol- 
lowers. 50 

As the attention of the new emperor was diverted by the 
most trifling amusements, he wasted many months in his 
luxurious progress from Syria to Italy, passed at Nicomedia 
his first winter after his victory, and deferred till the en- 
suing summer his triumphal entry into the capital. A faith- 
ful picture, however, which preceded his arrival, and was 
placed by his immediate order over the altar of Victory in 
the senate house, conveyed to the Romans the just but un- 
worthy resemblance of his person and manners. He was 
drawn in his sacerdotal robes of silk and gold, after the 

&o Dion, 1. lxxix. p. 1053. 


loose flowing fashion of the Mecles and Phoenicians ; his 
head was covered with a lofty tiara, his numerous collars 
and bracelets were adorned with gems of an inestimable 
value. His eyebrows were tinged with black, and his cheeks 
painted with an artificial red and white. 61 The grave sena- 
tors confessed with a sigh, that, after having long experienced 
the stern tyranny of their own countrymen, Rome was at 
length humbled beneath the effeminate luxury of Oriental 

The Sun was worshipped at Emesa, under the name of 
Elagabalus, 52 and under the form of a black conical stone, 
which, as it was universally believed, had fallen from heaven 
on that sacred place. To this protecting deity, Antoninus, 
not without some reason, ascribed his elevation to the throne. 
The display of superstitious gratitude was the only serious 
business of his reign. The triumph of the god of Emesa 
over all the religions of the earth was the great object of 
his zeal and vanity ; and the appellation of Elagabalus (for 
he presumed as pontiff and favorite to adopt that sacred 
name) was dearer to him than all the titles of Imperial 
greatness. In a solemn procession through the streets of 
Home, the way was strewed with gold dust ; the black 
stone, set in precious gems, was placed on a chariot drawn 
by six milk-white horses richly caparisoned. The pious em- 
peror held the reins, and, supported by his ministers, moved 
slowly backwards, that he might perpetually enjoy the 
felicity of the divine presence. In a magnificent temple 
raised on the Palatine Mount, the sacrifices of the god 
Elagabalus were celebrated with every circumstance of cost 
and solemnity. The richest wines, the most extraordinary 
victims, and the rarest aromatics, were profusely consumed 

51 Dion, 1. lxxix.p. 1363. Herodian, 1. v- p. 189. 

52 This name is derived by the learned from two Syriac words, Ela, a God, 
and Gabal, to form, the forming or plastic god, a proper, and even happy epithet 
for the sun.* Wotton's History of Rome, p. 378. 

* The name of Elagabalus has been disfigured in various ways. Herodian 
calls him EAatayajSaAo? j Lampiidius, and the more modern writers, make him 
Heliogabalus. Dion calls him Elegab;ilus ; but Elagabalus was the true name, 
as it appears on the medals. ( Doct. num. vet. t. vii. p. 250.) As to 
its etymology, tiiat which Gibbon adduces is given by Bochart, Chan. ii. 5 ; but 
Salmasius, on better gro.mds (not. in Lamprid. in Elagab.), derives the name of 
Elagabalus from the idol of that god, represented by Herodian and the medals in 
the form of a mountain (gibel in Hebrew), or great stone cut to a point, with 
marks which represent the sun. As it was not permitted, at Hierapolis, in Syria, 
to make statues of the sun and moon, because, it was said, they are themselves 
sufficiently visible, the sun was represented at Emef a in the form of a great stone, 
which, as it appeared, had fallen from heaven. Spanheim, Caesar, notes, p. 46 — G. 
The name of Elagabalus, in " nummis rarius legetur." liasche Lex. Univ. Rei 
Numin. liasche quotes two.— M. 


on his altar. Around the altar a chorus of Syrian damsels 
performed their lascivious dances to the sound of barbarian 
music, whilst the gravest personages of the state and army, 
clothed in long Phoenician tunics, officiated in the meanest 
functions, with affected zeal and secret indignation. 53 

To this temple, as to the common centre of religious 
worship, the Imperial fanatic attempted to remdve the 
Ancilia, the Palladium, 54 and all the sacred pledges of the 
faith of jSTuma. A crowd of inferior deities attended in 
various stations the majesty of the god of Emesa ; but his 
court was still imperfect, till a female of distinguished rank 
w T as admitted to his bed. Pullas had been first chosen for 
his consort ; but as it was dreaded lest her warlike terrors 
might affright the soft delicacy of a Syrian deity, the Moon, 
adored by the Africans under the name of Astarte, was 
deemed a more suitable companion for the Sun. Her image, 
with the rich offerings of her temple as a marriage portion, 
was transported with solemn pomp from Carthage to Rome, 
and the day of these mystic nuptials Avas a general festival 
in the capital and throughout the empire. 55 

A rational voluptuary adheres with invariable respect to 
the temperate dictates of nature, and improves the gratifica- 
tions of sense by social intercourse, endearing connections, 
and the soft coloring of taste and the imagination. But 
Elagabalus (I speak of the emperor of that name), cor- 
rupted by his youth, his country, and his fortune, abandoned 
himself to the grossest pleasures with ungoverned fury, and 
soon found disgust and satiety in the midst of his enjoy- 
ments. The inflammatory powers of art were summoned 
to his aid : the confused multitude of women, of wines, and 
of dishes, and the studied variety of attitudes and sauces, 
served to revive his languid appetites. New terms and new 
inventions in these sciences, the only ones cultivated and 
patronized by the monarch, 56 signalized his reign, and trans- 
mitted his infamy to succeeding times. A capricious prod- 
igality supplied the want of taste and elegance; and whilst 

53 Herodian, 1. v. p. 190. 

54 He broke into the sanctuary of Vesta, and carried away a statue which he 
supposed to be the palladium ; but the vestals boasted that by a pious fraud, they 
had imposed a counterfeit image on the profane intruder. Hist. August, p. 103. 

55 Dion, 1. lxxix. p. 1360. Herodian, 1. v. p. 193. The subjects of the empire 
were obliged to make liberal presents to the new-married couple ; and whatever 
they had promised during the life of Elagabalus was carefully exacted under the 
administration of Mamaea. 

60 The invention of a new sauce was liberally rewarded ; but if it was not rel- 
ished, the inventor was confined to eat of nothing else till he had discovered an- 
other more agreeable to the Imperial palate. Hist. August, p. 111. 


Elagabalus lavished away the treasures of his people in the 
wildest extravagance, his own voice and that of his flat- 
terers applauded a spirit and magnificence unknown to the 
tarn en ess of his predecessors. To confound the order of 
seasons and climates, 67 to sport with the passions and pre- 
judices of his subjects, and to subvert every law of nature 
and decency, were in the number of his most delicious 
amusements. A long train of concubines, and a rapid suc- 
cession of wives, among whom was a vestal virgin, ravished 
by force from her sacred asylum, 58 were insufficient to 
satisfy the impotence of his passions. The master of the 
Roman world affected to copy the dress and manners of the 
female sex, preferred the distaff to the sceptre, and dis- 
honored the principal dignities of the empire by distributing 
them among his numerous lovers; one of whom was pub- 
licly invested with the title and authority of the emperor's, 
or, as he more properly styled himself, of the empress's 
husband. 59 

It may seem probable the vices and follies of Elagabalus 
have been adorned by fancy, and blackened by prejudice. 00 
Yet, confining ourselves to the public scenes displayed before 
the Roman people, and attested by grave and contemporary 
historians, their inexpressible infamy surpasses that of any 
other age or country. The license of an eastern monarch is 
secluded from the eye of curiosity by the inaccessible walls of 
his seraglio. The sentiments of honor and gallantry have 
introduced a refinement of pleasure, a regard for decency, 
awd a respect for the public opinion, into the modern courts 
of Europe ; * but the corrupt and opulent nobles of Rome 
gratified every vice that could be collected from the mighty 
conflux of nations and manners. Secure of impunity, careless 
of censure, they lived without restraint in the patient and 

57 He never would eat sea-fish except at a great distance from the sea ; he then 
would distribute vast quantities of the rarest sorts, brought at an immense ex- 
pense, to the peasants of the inland country. Hist. August, p. 109. 

5 ^ Dion, 1. lxxix. p. 1358. Herodian, 1. v. p. 192. 

• VJ Hierocles enjoyed that honor ; but he would have been supplanted by one 
Zoticus, had he not contrived, by a potion, to enervate the powers of his rival, 
who, being found on trial unequal to his reputation, was driven with ignominy from 
the palace. Dion, I, lxxix. pp. 10GH, 1364. A dancer was made prsefect of the city, 
a charioteer prajfect of the watch, a barber prsefect of the provisions. These 
three ministers, with many inferior officers, were all recommended enormitate 
membrnrtim. Hist. August, p. 105. 

00 E\ei the credulous compiler of his life, in the Augustan History (p. Ill) is 
inclined to suspect that his vices may have been exaggerated. 

* Wenck has justly observed that Gibbon should have reckoned the influence 
of Christianity in this great change. In the most savage times, and the most cor- 
rupt courts, since the introduction of Christianity, there have beeimo Neros or 
Domitians, no Commodus or Elagabalus. — M. 


humble society of their slaves and parasites. The emperor, 
in his turn, viewing every rank of his subjects with the same 
contemptuous indifference, asserted without control his sov- 
ereign privilege of lust and luxury. 

The most worthless of mankind are not afraid to condemn 
in others the same disorders which they allow in themselves ; 
and can readily discover some nice difference of age, charac- 
ter, or station, to justify the partial distinction. The licentious 
soldiers, who had raised to the throne the dissolute son of 
Caracalla, blushed at their ignominious choice, and turned 
with disgust from that monster, to contemplate with pleasure 
the opening virtues of his cousin Alexander, the son of Ma- 
maea. The crafty Maesa, sensible that her grandson Elaga- 
balus must inevitably destroy himself by his own vices, had 
provided another and surer support of her family. Embracing 
a favorable moment of fondness and devotion, she had per- 
suaded the young emperor to adopt Alexander, and to invest 
him with the title of Cajsar, that his own divine occupations 
might be no longer interrupted by the care of the earth. In 
the second rank that amiable prince soon acquired the affec- 
tions of the public, and excited the tyrant's jealousy, who 
resolved to terminate the dangerous competition, either by 
corrupting the manners, or by taking away the life, of his 
rival. His arts proved unsuccessful ; his vain designs were 
constantly discovered by his own loquacious folly, and disap- 
pointed by those virtuous and faithful servants whom the pru- 
dence of Mamaea had placed about the person of her son. 
In a hasty sally of passion, Elagabalus resolved to execute by 
force what he had been unable to compass by fraud, and by 
a despotic sentence degraded his cousin from the rank and 
honors of Caesar. The message was received in the senate 
with silence, and in the camp with fury. The Praetorian 
guards swore to protect Alexander, and to revenge the dis- 
honored majesty of the throne. The tears and promises of 
the trembling Elagabalus, who only begged them to spare his 
life and to leave him in the possession of his beloved Hier- 
ocles, diverted their just indignation ; and they contented 
themselves with empowering their prsefects to watch over 
the safety of Alexander and the conduct of the emperor. 61 

It was impossible that such a reconciliation should last, or 
that even the mean soul of Elagabalus could hold an empire 

61 Dion, 1. lxxix. p. 1365. Herodian, 1. v. p. 105—201. Hist. August, p. 105 
The last of the three historians seems to have followed the best authors in his 
ttccount of the revolution. 


on such humiliating terms of dependence. He soon attempt- 
ed, by a dangerous experiment, to try the temper of the 
soldiers. The report of the death of Alexander, and the 
natural suspicion that he had been murdered, inflamed their 
passions into fury, and the tempest of the camp could only be 
appeased by the presence and authority of the popular youth. 
Provoked at this new instance of their affection for his cousin, 
and their contempt for his person, the emperor ventured to 
punish some of the leaders of the mutiny. His unseasonable 
severity proved instantly fatal to his minions, his mother, and 
himself. Elagabalus was massacred by the indignant Praeto- 
rians, his mutilated corpse dragged through the streets of the 
city, and thrown into the Tiber. His memory was branded 
with eternal infamy by the senate ; the justice of whose 
decree has been ratified by posterity. 02 

In the room of Elagabalus, his cousin Alexander was 
raised to the throne by the Praetorian guards. His relation 
to the family of Severus, whose name he assumed, was the 
same as that of his predecessor ; his virtue and his danger 
had already endeared him to the Romans, and the eager 
liberality of the senate conferred upon him, in one day, the 
various titles and powers of the Imperial dignity. 63 But as 
Alexander was a modest and dutiful youth, of only seventeen 
years of age, the reins of government were in the hands of 
two women, of his mother, Mamaea, and of Maesa, his grand- 
mother. After the death of the latter, who survived but a 
short time the elevation of Alexander, Mamaea remained the 
sole regent of her son and of the empire. 

62 The sera of the death of Elagabalus, and of the accession of Alexander, has 
employed the learning and ingenuity of Pa<ji, Tillemont, Valseechi, Vignoli, and 
Torre, bishop of Adria. The question is most assuredly intricate ; but I still ad- 
here to the authority of Dion, the truth of whose calculations is undeniable, and 
the purity of whose text is justified by the agreement of Xiphiliu, Zonaras, and 
Cedrenus. Elagabalus reigned three years nine months and four days, from his 
victory over Macrinus, and was killed March 10, 222. But what shall we reply to 
the medals, undoubtedly genuine, which reckon the fifth year of his tribunitian 
power ? We shall reply, with the learned Valseechi, that the usurpation of Ma- 
crinus was annihilated, and that the son of Caraealla dated Ins reign from his 
father's death. After resolving this great difficulty, the smaller knots of this 
question may be easily untied, or cut asunder. * 

,i! Hist. August, p. 114. By this unusual precipitation, the senate meant to 
confound the hopes of pretenders, and prevent the factions of the armies. 

* This opinion of Valseechi has been triumphantly contested by Eckhel, who 
has shown the impossibility of reconciling it with the medals of Eiagabalus, and 
has given the most satisfactory explanation of the live tribunates of that em- 
peror. He ascended the throne and received the tribunitian power the 10th of 
May. in the year of Rome 971 ; and on the 1st January of the next year, 972. he 
began a new tribunate, according to the custom established by preceding em- 
perors. During the years 972. 973, 974. he enjoyed the tribunate, and commenced 
his fifth in the year 975, during which he was killed on the 10th March. Eckhel 
de Doct. ]Sum. vol. viii. p. 430, &c.— G. 


In every age and country the \viser,or at least the stronger, 
of the two sexes, 1ms usurped the powers of the state, and 
confined the other to the cares and pleasures of domestic 
life. In hereditary monarchies, however, and especially in 
those of modem Europe, the gallant spirit of chivalry, and 
the law of succession, have accustomed us to allow a singular 
exception; and a woman is often acknowledged the absolute 
sovereign of a great kingdom, in which she would be deemed 
incapable of exercising the smallest employment, civil or mil- 
itary. But as the Roman emperors were still considered as 
the generals and magistrates of the republic, their wives and 
mothers, although distinguished by the name of Augusta, 
were never associated to their personal honors ; and a female 
reign would have appeared an inexpiable prodigy in the eyes 
of those primitive Romans, who married without love, or 
loved without delicacy and respect. 64 The haughty Agrip- 
pina aspired, indeed, to share the honors of the empire which 
she had conferred on her son ; but her mad ambition, detested 
by every citizen who felt for the dignity of Rome, was disap- 
pointed by the artful firmness of Seneca and Burrhus. 65 The 
good sense, or the indifference, of succeeding princes, re- 
strained them from offending the prejudices of their subjects ; 
and it was reserved for the profligate Elagabalus to dis- 
charge the acts of the senate with the name of his mother 
Soaemias, who was placed by the side of the consuls, and sub- 
scribed, as a regular member, the decrees of the legislative 
assembly. Her more prudent sister, Mamsea, declined the 
useless and odious prerogative, and a solemn law was enacted, 
excluding women forever from the senate, and devoting to 
the infernal gods the head of the wretch by whom this sanc- 
tion should be violated. 66 The substance, not the pageantry, 
of power, was the object of Mamaaa's manly ambition. She 
maintained an absolute and lasting empire over the mind of 
her son, and in his affection the mother could not brook a 
rival. Alexander, with her consent, married the daughter 
of a patrician ; but his respect for his father-in-law, and love 
for the empress, were inconsistent with the tenderness or in- 
terest of Mamaga. The patrician was executed on the ready 

64 Metelhis Numidicus, the censor, acknowledged to the Roman people, in a 
public oration, that, had kind nature allowed us to exist without the help of 
women, we should be delivered from a very troublesome companion ; and he 
could recommend matrimony only as the sacrifice of private pleasure to public 
duty, Aulus Gellius. 1. 0. 

05 Tacit. Annal. xiii. 5. 

w Hist. August, pp. 102, 107. 


accusation of treason, and the wife of Alexander driven with 
ignominy from the palace and banished into Africa. 67 

Notwithstanding this act of jealous cruelty, as well as 
some instances of avarice, with which Mamaea is charged, 
the general tenor of her administration was equally for the 
benefit of her son and of the empire. With the approbation 
of the senate, she chose sixteen of the wisest and most virtu, 
ous senators as a perpetual council of state, before whom 
every public business of moment was debated and deter- 
mined. The celebrated Ulpian, equally distinguished by 
his knowledge of, and his respect for, the laws of Rome, was 
at their head; and the prudent firmness of this aristocracy 
restored order and authority to the government. As soon 
as they had purged the city from foreign superstition and 
luxury, the remains of the capricious tyranny of Elagabalus, 
they applied themselves to remove his worthless creatures 
from every department of the public administration, and to 
supply their places with men of virtue and ability. Learn- 
ing, and the love of justice, became the only recommenda- 
tions for civil offices; valor, and the love of discipline, the 
only qualifications for military employments. 68 

But the most important care of Mamaea and her wise 
counsellors was to form the character of the young emperor, 
on whose personal qualities the happiness or misery of the 
Roman world must ultimately depend. The fortunate soil 
assisted, and even prevented, the hand of cultivation. An 
excellent understanding soon convinced Alexander of the 
advantages of virtue, the pleasure of knowledge, and the 
necessity of labor. A natural mildness and moderation of 
temper preserved him from the assaults of passion and the 
allurements of vice. His unalterable regard for his mother, 
and his esteem for the wise Ulpian, guarded his inexperi- 
enced youth from the poison of flattery.* 

C7 Dion 1. lxxx. p. 1369. Herodian, 1. vi. p. 206. Hist. August, p. 131. Hemdian 
represents the patrician as innocent. The Augustan History, on the authority 
of Dexippus, condemns him, as guilty of a conspiracy against the life of Alex- 
ander. It is impossible to pronounce between them ; 'but Dion is an irreproach- 
a'lle witness of the jealousy and cruelty of Mamaea towards the young empress, 
whose hard fate Alexander lamented, but durst not oppose. 

,8 Herodian, 1. vi. p. 203. Hist. August, p. 119. The latter insinuates, that 
when any law was to be passed, the council was assisted by a number of able 
lawyers and experienced senators, whose opinions were separately given, and 
taken down in writing. 

♦Alexander received into his chapel all the religions which prevailed in the 
empire ; he admitted Jesus Christ, Abraham, Orpheus, Apollonius of Tyana, &c. 
It is almost certain that his mother Mamaea had instructed him in the morality 
of Christianity. Historians ii general agree in calling her a Christian ; there is 
reason to believe that she had begun to have a taste for the principles of Christi- 


The simple journal of his ordinary occupations exhibits 
a pleasing picture of an accomplished emperor, 69 and, with 
some allowance for the difference of manners, might well 
deserve the imitation of modern princes. Alexander rose 
early: the first moments of the day were consecrated to pri- 
vate devotion, and his domestic chapel was filled with the 
images of those heroes, who, by improving or reforming 
human life, had deserved, the grateful reverence of posterity. 
But as he deemed the service of mankind the most accept- 
able worship of the gods, the greatest part of his morning 
hours was employed in his council, where he discussed pub- 
lic affairs, and determined, private causes, with a patience 
and discretion above his years. The dryness of business 
was relieved by the charms of literature ; and a portion of 
time was always set apart for his favorite studies of poetry, 
history, and philosophy. The works of Virgil and Horace, 
the republics of Plato and Cicero, formed his taste, enlarged 
his understanding, and gave him the noblest ideas of man 
and government. The exercises of the body succeeded to 
those of the mind ; and Alexander, who was tall, active, and 
robust, surpassed most of his equals in the gymnastic arts. 
Refreshed by the use of the bath and a slight dinner, he 
resumed, with new vigor, the business of the day; and, till 
the hour of supper, the principal meal of the Romans, he 
was attended by his secretaries, with whom he read and an- 
swered the multitude of letters, memorials, and petitions, 
that must have been addressed to the master of the greatest 
part of the world. His table was served with the most fru- 
gal simplicity ; and whenever he was at liberty to consult 
his own inclination, the company consisted of a few select 

69 See his life in the Augustan History. The undistinpuishing compiler buried these interesting anecdotes under a load of trival and unmeaning 

anity. (See Tillemont, Alexander Severus.) Gibbon has not noticed this circum- 
stance ; lie appears to have wished to lower the character of this empress ; he has 
throughout followed the narrative of Heiodian. who, by the acknowledgment of 
Capitolinus himself, detested Alexander. Without believing the exaggerated 
praises of Lampridius, he ought not to have followed the unjust severity of Hero- 
dian, and, above all, not to have forgotten to say that the virtuous Alexander Sev- 
erus had insured to the Jews the preservation of their privileges, and permitted the 
exercise of Christianity. Hist. Aug. p. 121. The Christians had established their 
worship in a public place, of which the victuallers (cauponarii) claimed, not the 
property, but possession by custom. Alexander answered, that it was better 
that the place should be used for the service of God. in any form, than for vic- 
tuallers. — G. 1 have scrupled to omit this note, as it contains some points worthy 
of notice ; but it is very unjust to Gibbon, who mentions almost all the circum- 
stances, which he is licensed of omitting, in another, and according to his plan, 
a litter place, and, perhaps, in stronger terms than M. Guizot. See chap, 
xvi.— M. 


friends, men of learning and virtue, amongst whom Ulpiafi 
was constantly invited. Their conversation was familiar 
and instructive; and the pauses were occasionally enlivened 
by the recital of some pleasing composition, which supplied 
the place of the dancers, comedians, and even gladiators, so 
frequently summoned to the tables of the rich and luxurious 
Romans. 70 The dress of Alexander was plain and modest, 
his demeanor courteous and affable : at the proper hours his 
palace was open to all his subjects, but the voice of a crier 
was heard, as in the Eleusinian mysteries, pronouncing the 
same salutary admonition: "Let none enter those holy 
walls, unless he is conscious of a pure and innocent mind." 71 

Such an uniform tenor of life, which left not a moment 
for vice or folly, is a better proof of the wisdom and justice 
of Alexander's government than all the trifling details pre- 
served in the compilation of Lampridius. Since the acces- 
sion of Commodus, the Roman world had experienced, dur- 
ing the term of forty years, the successive and various vices 
of four tyrants. From the death of Elagabalus it enjoyed 
an auspicious calm of thirteen years.* The provinces, re- 
lieved from the oppressive taxes invented by Caracalla and 
his pretended son, flourished in peace and prosperity, under 
the administration of magistrates who were convinced by 
experience that to deserve the love of the subjects was their 
best and only method of obtaining the favor of their sov- 
ereign. While some gentle restraints were imposed on the 
innocent luxury of the Roman people, the price of provisions 
and the interest of money, were reduced by the paternal 
care of Alexander, whose prudent liberality, without dis- 
tressing the industrious, supplied the wants and amusements 
of the populace. The dignity, the freedom, the authority 
of the senate was restored ; and every virtuous senator 
might approach the person of the emperor without a fear 
and without a blush. 

The name of Antoninus, ennobled by the virtues of Pius 
and Marcus, had been communicated by adoption to the dis- 
solute Verus, and by descent to the cruel Commodus. It 
became the honorable appellation of the sons of Severus, was 

to See the 13th Satire of Juvenal. 
" Hist. August, p. 119, 

* Wenck observes 1hat Gibbon, enchanted with the virtue of Alexander, haa 
haightened, particularly in this sentence, its effect or. the state of the world. His 
own aconnt, which follows, of the insurrections and foreign wars, is not in har- 
mony with this beautiful picture.— M. 


bestowed on young Diadumenianus, and at length prosti- 
tuted to the infamy of the high priest of Emesa. Alexan- 
der, though pressed by the studied, and, perhaps, sincere 
importunity of the senate, nobly refused the borrowed lustre 
of a name ; whilst in his whole conduct he labored to restore 
the glories and felicity of the age of the genuine Antonines. 72 
In the civil administration of Alexander, wisdom was 
enforced by power, and the people, sensible of the public 
felicity, repaid their benefactor with their love and gratitude. 
There still remained a greater, a more necessary, but a more 
difficult enterprise ; the reformation of the military order, 
whose interest and temper, confirmed by long impunity, ren- 
dered them impatient of the restraints of discipline, and 
careless of the blessings of public tranquillity. In the execu- 
tion . of his design, the emperor affected to display his love, 
and to conceal his fear, of the army. ■ The most rigid econ- 
omy in every other branch of the administration supplied 
a fund of gold and silver for the ordinary pay and the ex- 
traordinary rewards of the troops. In their marches he re- 
laxed the severe obligation of carrying seventeen days' pro- 
vision on their shoulders. Ample magazines were formed 
along the public roads, and as soon as they entered the 
enemy's country, a numerous train of mules and camels 
waited on their haughty laziness. As Alexander despaired 
of correcting the luxury of his soldiers, he attempted, at 
least, to direct it to objects of martial pomp and ornament, 
fine horses, splendid armor, and shields enriched with silver 
and gold. He shared whatever fatigues he was obliged to 
impose, visited, in person, the sick and wounded, preserved 
an exact register of their services and his own gratitude, 
and expressed, on every occasion, the warmest regard for a 
body of men, whose welfare, as he affected to declare, was 
so closely connected with that of the state.- 3 By the most 
gentle arts he labored to inspire the fierce multitude with a 
sense of duty, and to restore at least a faint image of that 
discipline to which the Romans owed their empire over so 
many other nations, as warlike and more powerful than 
themselves. But his prudence was vain, his courage fatal, 

72 See, in the Hist. August, p. 116, 117, the whole contest between Alexander 
and the senate, extracted from the journals of that assembly. It happened on 
the sixth of March, probably of the year 223, when the Romans had enjoyed, al- 
most a twelvemonth, the blessings of his reign. Before the appellation of An- 
toninus was offered him as a title of honor, the senate waited to see whether 
Alexander would not assune it as a family name. 

73 It was a favorite saying of the emperor's, Se milites magis servare, quam 
seipsum ; quod salus publica in his e.-set. Hist. Aug. p. 130. 


and the attempt towards a reformation served only to 
inflame the ills it was meant to cure. 

The Praetorian guards were attached to the youth of 
Alexander. They loved him as a tender pupil whom they 
had saved from a tyrant's fury and placed on the Imperial 
throne. That amiable prince was sensible of the obligation ; 
but as his gratitude was restrained within the limits of 
reason and justice, they soon were more dissatisiied with 
the virtues of Alexander than they had ever been with the 
vices of Elagabalus. Their praefect, the wise Ulpian, was 
the friend of the laws and of the people ; he was considered 
as the enemy of the soldiers, and to his pernicious counsels 
every scheme of reformation was imputed. Some trifling 
accident blew up their discontent into a furious mutiny ; 
and the civil war raged, during three days, in Rome, whilst 
the life of that excellent minister was defended by the grate- 
ful people. Terrified, at length, by the sight of some houses in 
flames, and by the threats of a general conflagration, the 
people yielded with a sigh, and left the virtuous but unfor- 
tunate Ulpian to his fate. He was pursued into the Imperial 
palace, and massacred at the feet of his master, who vainly 
strove to cover him with the purple, and to obtain his par- 
don from the inexorable soldiers.* Such was the deplor- 
able weakness of government that the emperor was unable 
to avenge his murdered friend and his insulted dignity, 
without stooping to the arts of patience and dissimulation. 
Epagathus, the principal leader of the mutiny, was removed 
from Rome by the honorable employment of praafect of 
Egypt : from that high rank he was gently degraded to the 
Government of Crete; and when, at length, his popularity 
among the guards was effaced by time and absence, Alex- 
ander ventured to inflict the tardy but deserved punishment 
of his crimes. 74 Under the reign of a just and virtuous 

74 Though the author of the life of Alexander (Hist. August, p. 132) mentions 
the sedition raised against Ulpian by the soldiers, he conceals the catastrophe, as 
it might discover a weakness in the administration of his hero. From this de- 
signed omission, we may judge of the weight and candor of that author. 

* Gibbon has confounded two events altogether different — the quarrel of the 
people with the Praetorians, which lasted three days, and the assassination of 
Ulpian by the latter. Dion relatos lirst the death of Ulpian ; afterwards, reverting 
back according to a manner whi.h is usual with him, he says that during the life 
of Ulpian, there had been a war of three days between the Praetorians and the 
people. But Ulpian was not the cause. Dion says, on the contrary, that it was 
occasioned by some unimportant circumstance ; whilst he assigns a weighty rea- 
son for the murder of Ulpian, the judgment by which that Praetorian prnefect had 
condemned his predecessors, Chrestus and Flavian, to death, whom the soldiers 
wished to revenge. Zosiuius (1. 1, c. xi.) attributes this sentence to Mamaea ; but, 
even then, the troops might have imputed it to Ulpian, who had reaped all the 
advantage, and was otherwise odious to them. — W. 



prince the tyranny of the army threatened with instant 
death his most faithful ministers, who were suspected of an 
intention to correct their intolerable disorders. The his- 
torian Dion Cassius had commanded the Paunonian legions 
with the spirit of ancient discipline. Their brethren of Rome, 
embracing the common cause of military license, demanded 
the head of the reformer. Alexander, however, instead of 
yielding to their seditious clamors, showed a just sense of 
nis merit and services by appointing him his colleague in 
the consulship, and defraying from his own treasury the ex- 
pense of that vain dignity : but as it was justly apprehend- 
ed that if the soldiers beheld him with the ensigns of his 
office they would revenge the insult in his blood, the 
nominal first magistrate of the state retired, by the empe- 
ror's advice, from the city, and spent the greatest part of 
his consulship at his villas in Campania. 75 * 

The lenity of the emperor confirmed the insolence of the 
troops ; the legions imitated the example of the guards, and 
defended their prerogative of licentiousness with the same 
furious obstinacy. The administration of Alexander was an 
unavailing struggle against the corruption of his age. In 
Illyricum, in Mauritania, in Armenia, in Mesopotamia, in 
Germany, fresh mutinies perpetually broke out ; his officers 
were murdered, his authority was insulted, and his life at 
last sacrificed to the fierce discontents of the army. 76 One 
particular fact well deserves to be recorded, as it illustrates 
the manners of the troops, and exhibits a singular instance 
of their return to a sense of duty and obedience. Whilst 
the emperor lay at Antioch, in his Persian expedition, 
the particulars of which we shall hereafter relate, the 
punishment of some soldiers, who had been discovered in the 
baths of women, excited a sedition in the legion to which 
they belonged. Alexander ascended his tribunal, and with 
a modest firmness represented to the armed multitude the 
absolute necessity, as well as his inflexible resolution, of 
correcting the vices introduced by his impure predecessor, 
and of maintaining the discipline, which could not be relaxed 

"'•> For an account of Ulpian's fate and his own danger, see the mutilated con- 
clusion of Dion's History, 1. lxxx. p. 1371. 

'"■> Annot. JReimar. ad Dion Cassius, 1. lxxx. p. 1369. 

* Dion possessed no estates in Campania, and was not rich. He only says that 
the emperor advised him to reside, daring his consulate, in some place out of 
Rome; that he returned to Home af t;T the end of his cons date, and had an in- 
terview with the emperor in Campania. He asked and obtained leave to pass 
the rest of his life in his native city (Nice, in Bithynia) : it was there that he fin- 
ished his history, which closes with his second consulship. — W. 


without the ruin of the Roman name and empire. Their 
clamors interrupted his mild expostulation. " Reserve your 
shouts," said the undaunted emperor, " till you take the field 
against the Persians, the Germans, and the Sarmatians. Be 
silent in the presence of your sovereign and benefactor, who 
bestows upon you the corn, the clothing, and the money of 
the provinces. Be silent, or I shall no longer style you sol- 
diers, but citizens? 1 if those indeed who disclaim the laws 
of Rome deserve to be ranked amono; the meanest of the 
people." His menaces inflamed the fury of the legion, and 
their brandished arms already threatened his person. " Your 
courage," resumed the intrepid Alexander, " would be more 
nobly displayed in the field of battle : me you may destroy, 
you cannot intimidate ; and the severe justice of the repub- 
lic would punish your crime and revenge my death." The 
legion still persisted in clamorous sedition, when the em- 
peror pronounced, with a loud voice, the decisive sentence, 
" Citizens ! lay down your arms, and depart in peace to 
your respective habitations." The tempest was instantly 
appeased : the soldiers,. filled with grief and shame, silently 
confessed the justice of their punishment and the power of 
discipline, yielded up their arms and military ensigns, and 
retired in confusion, tio!) to their camp, but to the several 
inns of the city. Alexander enjoyed, during thirty days, 
the edifying spectacle of their repentance ; nor did he re- 
store them to their former rank in the army, till he had pun- 
ished with death those tribunes whose connivance had oc- 
casioned the mutiny. The grateful legion served the em- 
peror whilst living, and revenged him when dead. 78 

The resolutions of the multitude generally depend on a 
moment; and the caprice of passion might equally deter- 
mine the seditious legion to lay down their arms at the 
emperor's feet, or to plunge them into his breast. Perhaps, 
if the singular trans action had been investigated by the 
penetration of a philosopher, we should discover the secret 
causes which on that occasion authorized the boldness of the 
prince, and commanded the obedience of the troops ; and, 
perhaps, if it had been related by a judicious historian, we 
should find this action, worthy of Caasar himself, reduced 
nearer to the level of probability and the common standard 
of the character of Alexander Severus. The abilities of 

77 Julius Caesar had appeased a sedition with the same word, Quirites; which, 
thus opposed to soldiers, was used in a cerise of contempt, and redvced ihe of- 
fenders to the less honorable condition of mere citizens. Tacit. Annal. i. 43. 

™ Hist. August, p. 132. 


that amiable prince seem to have been inadequate to the 
difficulties of his situation, the firmness of his conduct in- 
ferior to the purity of his intentions. His virtues, as well 
as the vices of Elagabalus, contracted a tincture of weakness 
and effeminacy from the soft climate of Syria, of which he 
was a native ; though he blushed at his foreign origin and 
listened with a vain complacency to the flattering genealo- 
gists, who derived his race from the ancient stock of Roman 
nobility. 79 The pride and avarice of his mother cast a shade 
on the glories of his reign ; and by exacting from his riper 
years the same dutiful obedience which she had justly 
claimed from his unexperienced youth, Mamaea exposed to 
public ridicule both her son's character and her own. £0 
The fatigues of the Persian war irritated the military dis- 
content ; the unsuccessful event # degraded the reputation 
of the emperor as a general, and even as a soldier. Every 
cause prepared, and every circumstance hastened, a revolu- 
tion, which distracted the Roman empire with a long series 
of intestine calamities. 

The dissolute tyranny of Commodus, the civil wars 
occasioned by his death, and the new maxims of policy in- 
troduced by the house of Severus, had all contributed to 
increase the dangerous power of the army, and to obliterate 
the faint image of laws and liberty that was still impressed 

79 From the Metelli. Hist. August, p. 129. The choice was judicious. In one 
short period of twelve years, the Metelli could reckon seven consulships and live 
triumphs. See Velleius Paterculus, ii. 11, and the Fas>i. 

80 The life of Alexander, in the Augustan History, is the mere idea of a per- 
fect prince, an awkward imitation of the Cyropsedia. The account of his reign, 
as given by Herodian, is rational and moderate, consistent with the general his- 
tory of the age ; and, in some of the most invidious particulars, coulirmed by the 
decisive fragments of Dion. Yet from a very paltry prejudice, the greater num- 
ber of our modem writers abuse Herodiau, and copy the Augustan History. See 
Mess, de Tillemont and Wotton. From the opposite prejudice, the emperor Julian 
(in Caesarib. p. 315) dwells with a visible satisfaction on the effeminate weakness 
of the Syrian, and the ridiculous avarice of his mother. 

* Historians are divided as to the success of the campaign against the Per- 
sians ; Herodian alone speaks of defeat. Lampridius, Eutropius, Victor, and 
others, say it was very glorious to Alexander ; that he beat Artaxerxes in a great 
battle, and repelled him from the frontiers of the empire. This much is certain, 
that Alexander, on his return to Rome (Lamp. Hist. Aug. c. 50, 133, 13-1), received 
the honors of a triumph, and that he said, in his oration to the people, Quiritcs, 
vicimus Persas, mililes diviles reduxhnus, vobis eongiavium pollicemur, eras 
ludos circenses Persicos donabimus. Alexander, says Eckhel, had too much 
modesty and wisdom to permit himself to receive honors which ought only to be 
the reward of victory, if he had not deserved them ; he would havo contented 
himself with dissembling his losses. Eckhel, Doct. Num. vet. vii. £76. The 
medals represent him as'in triumph ; one, among others, displays him crowned 
by Victory between two rivers, the Euph.ratcs and the Tigris. P. M, TK. P. xii. 
Cos. iii. PP. Imperator raludatus D. hastam, S. parazonium, stat inter duos 
fluvios humi jacentes, et ab accedente retr& Victoria coronatur. ZE. max. mod. 
(Mus. Peg. Gall.) Although Gibbon treats this question more in detail when he 
speaks of the Persian monarchy, I have thought lit to place here what contradicts 
his opinion — G. 


on the minds of the Romans. This internal change, which 
undermined the foundations of the empire, we have endeav- 
ored to explain with some degree of order and perspicuity. 
The personal characters of the emperors, their victories, 
laws, follies, and fortunes, can interest us no further than as 
they are connected with the general history of the Decline 
and Fall of the monarchy. Onr constant attention to that 
great object will not suffer us to overlook a most important 
edict of Antoninus Caracalla, which communicated to all 
the free inhabitants of the empire the name and privileges 
of Roman citizens. His unbounded liberality flowed not, 
however, from the sentiments of a generous mind ; it was 
the sordid result of avarice, and will naturally be illustrated 
by some observations on the finances of that state, from the 
victorious nges of the commonwealth to the reign of Alex- 
ander Severus. 

The siege of Veii in Tuscany, the first considerable en- 
terprise of the Romans, was protracted to the tenth year, 
much less by the strength of the place than by the unskil- 
fulness of the besiegers. The unaccustomed hardships of 
so many winter campaigns, at the distance of near twenty 
miles from home, 81 required more than common encourage- 
ments ; and the senate wisely prevented the clamors of the 
people by the institution of a regular pay for the soldiers, 
which was levied by a general tribute, assessed according to 
an equitable proportion on the property of the citizens. 8 - 
During more than two hundred years after the conquest of 
Veii, the victories of the republic added less to the wealth 
than to the power of Rome. The states of Italy paid their 
tribute in military service only, and the vast force, both by 
sea and land, which was exerted in the Punic Avars, was 
maintained at the expense of the Romans themselves. That 
high-spirited people (such is often the generous enthusiasm 
of freedom) cheerfully submitted to the most excessive but 
voluntary burdens, in the just confidence that they should 
speedily enjoy the rich harvest of their labors. Their ex- 

81 According to the more accurate Dionysius. the city itself was only a hundred 
stadia, or twelve miles and a half, from Rome, though some outposts might be 
advanced farther on the side of Ltruria. Nardini, in a professed treatise, has 
combated the popular opinion and the authority of two popes, and has removed 
Veii from Civil a Castellaiui, to a little spot calied Isola, in the midway between 
Rome and the Lake Bracciano.* 

8 - See the 4th and 5th books of Livy. In the Roman census, property, power, 
and taxation were commensurate willi each other. 

* See the interesting account of the site and ruins of Veii in Sir W. Gell's To- 
pography of Rome and its Vicinity, v. ii. p. 303. — M. 


pectations were not disappointed. In the course of a few 
years, the riches of Syracuse, of Carthage, of Macedonia, 
and of Asia, were brought in triumph to Rome. The treas- 
ures of Perseus alone amounted to near two millions ster- 
ling, and the Roman people, the sovereign of so many 
nations, was forever delivered from the weight of taxes. 13 
The increasing revenue of the provinces was found sufficient 
to defray the ordinary establishment of war and govern- 
ment, and the superfluous mass of gold and silver was de- 
posited in the temple of Saturn, and reserved for any un- 
foreseen emergency of the state. 84 

History has never, perhaps, suffered a greater or more 
irreparable injury than in the loss of the curious register* 
bequeathed by Augustus to the senate, in which that ex- 
perienced prince so accurately balanced the revenues and 
expenses of the Roman empire. 85 Deprived of this clear 
and comprehensive estimate, we are reduced to collect a few 
imperfect hints from such of the ancients as have accident- 
ally turned aside from the splendid to the more useful parts 
of history. We are informed that, by the conquests of 
Pompey, the tributes of Asia were raised from fifty to one 
hundred and thirty-five millions of drachms; or about four 
millions and a half sterling. 86 f Under the last and most in- 
dolent of the Ptolemies, the revenue of Egypt is said to 
have amounted to twelve thousand five hundred talents ; a 
sum equivalent to more than two millions and a half of our 
money, but which was afterwards considerably improved by 
the more exact economy of the Romans, and the increase 
of the trade of ^Ethiopia and India. 87 Gaul was enriched 
by rapine, as Egypt was by commerce, and the tributes of 
those two great provinces have been compared as nearly 

f3 Plin. Hist. Natur. 1. xxxiii. c. 3. Cicero de Offie. ii. 22. Plutarch, in P. 
JEmil. p. 275. 

84 See a line description of this accumulated wealth of ages, in Lucan's Phars. 
1. iii. v. 155, &c. 

gi Tacit, in Annal. i. 11. It seems to have existed in the time of Appian. 

86 Plutarch, in Pompeio, p. 042. w Strabo, 1. xvii. p. 788. 

* See Rationarium imperii. Compare besides Tacitus, Suet. Aug. c. ult. Dion, 
p. 832. Other emperors kept and published similar registers. See a dissertation 
of Dr. Wolle, de Rationario imperii Rom. Leipsig, 1773. The last book of Appian 
also contained the statistics of the Roman empire, but it is lost. — W. 

t Wenck contests the accuracy of Gibbon's version of Plutarch, and supposes 
that Pompey only raised the revenue from 50,000.000 to 85.000,000 of drachms; but 
the text of Plutarch seems clearly to mean that his conquests added 85,000,000 to 
the ordinary revenue. Wenck adds, " Plutarch says, in another part, that 
Antony made Asia pay, at one time, 200,000 talents, that is to say, 38,750,000/. 
sterling." But Appian explains this by saving Hiat it was the revenue of ten 
years, which brings the annual revenua, ao the lime of Antony, to 3,875,000/. ster- 
ling.— M. 


equal to each other in value. 88 The ten thousand Euboic or 
Phoenician talents, about four millions sterling, 89 which van- 
quished Carthage was condemned to pay within the term of 
fifty years, were a slight acknowledgment of the superior- 
ity of Rome, 90 and cannot bear the least proportion with the 
taxes afterwards raised both on the lands and on the per- 
sons of the inhabitants, when the fertile coast of Africa was 
reduced into a province. 91 

Spain, by a very singular fatality, was the Peru and 
Mexico of the old world. The discovery of the rich 
western continent by the Phoenicians, and the oppression of 
the simple natives, who were compelled to labor in their 
own mines for the benefit of strangers, form, an exact type 
of the more recent history of Spanish America. 92 The 
Phoenicians were acquainted only with the sea-coast of 
Spain ; avarice, as well as ambition, carried the arms of 
Rome and Carthage into the heart of the country, and 
almost every part of the soil was found pregnant with cop- 
per, silver, and gold.* Mention is made of a mine near 
Carthagena which yielded every day twenty-five thousand 
drachms of silver, or about three hundred thousand pounds 
a year. 93 Twenty thousand pound weight of gold was 
annually received from the provinces of Asturia, Gallicia, 
and Lusitania. 94 

We want both leisure and materials to pursue this 
curious inquiry through the many potent states that were 
annihilated in the Roman empire. Some notion, however, 
may be formed of the revenue of the provinces where con- 
siderable wealth had been deposited by nature, or collected 
by man, if we observe the severe attention that was directed 
to the abodes of solitude and sterility. Augustus once re- 
ceived a petition from the inhabitants of Gyarus, humbly 
praying that they might be relieved from one third of their 
excessive impositions. Their whole tax amounted indeed 
to no more than one hundred and fifty drachms, or about 

83 Velleius Paterculus, 1. ii. c. .39. He seems to give the preference to the 
revenue of Gaul. 

83 The Euboic, the Phoenician, and the Alexandrian talents were double in 
weight to the Attic. See Hooper on ancient weights and measures, p. iv. c. 5. It 
is very probable that the same talent was carried from Tyre to Carthage. 

90 Polyb. 1. xv. c. 2. 91 Appia-i in Punicis. p. 84. 

92 Diodorus Sicul as, 1.5. Cadiz was built by the Phoenicians, a little more than 
a thousand veavs before Christ. See Veil. Pater, i. 2. 

oa Strabo,' 1. iii. p. 148. 

94 Plin. Hist. Natur. 1. xxxiii. c. 3. He mentions, likewise, a silver mine in 
Dalmatia, that yielded every day iifty pounds to the state. 

* Compare Heeren's Researches, vol. i. part ii. p. 45, et seq.— M. 


five pounds : but Gyarus was a little island, or rather a rock, 
of the iEgean Sea, destitute of fresh water and every 
necessary of life, and inhabited only by a few wretched 
fishermen. 95 

From the faint glimmerings of such doubtful and scat- 
tered lights, we should be inclined to believe, 1st, That 
(with every fair allowance for the difference of times and 
circumstances) the general income of the Roman provinces 
could seldom amount to less than fifteen or twenty millions 
of our money ; 96 and, 2dly, That so ample a revenue must 
have been fully adequate to all the expenses of the moder- 
ate government instituted by Augustus, whose court was 
the modest family of a private senator, and whose military 
establishment was calculated for the defence of the frontiers, 
without any aspiring views of conquest, or any serious ap- 
prehension of a foreign invasion. 

Notwithstanding the seeming probability of both these 
conclusions, the latter of them at least is positively dis- 
owned by the language and conduct of Augustus. It is not 
easy to determine whether, on this occasion, he acted as the 
common father of the Roman world, or as the oppressor of 
liberty ; whether he wished to relieve the provinces, or to 
impoverish the senate and the equestrian order. But no 
sooner had he assumed the reins of government than he 
frequently intimated the insufficiency of the tributes, and 
the necessity of throwing an equitable proportion of the 
public burden upon Rome and Italy. f In the prosecution 

05 Strabo, 1. x. p. 485. Tacit. Annul, iii. 69, and iv. 30. See in Toumefort 
(Voyages au Levant, Lettre viii.) a very lively picture of the actual misery of 

90 Lipsius de Magnitudine Romana (1. ii. c. 3) computes the revenue at one 
hundred and iifty millions of gold crowns ; but his whole book, though learned 
and ingenious, betrays a very heated imagination.* 

* If Justus Lipsius has exaggerated the revenue of the Roman empire, Gib- 
bon, on the other band, has underrated it. He fixes it at fifteen or twenty mil- 
lions of our money. But if we take only, on a moderate calculation, the taxes in 
the provinces which he has already cited, they will amount, considering the 
augmentations made by Augustus, to nearly tbat sum. There remain, also, the 
provinces of Italy, of Rhastia, of Noricurn, Pannonia, and Greece, &c, &c. Let 
us pay attention, besides, to the prodigious expenditure of some emperors (Suet. 
Vesp. lf>) ; we shall see that such a revenue could not be sufficient. The authors 
of the Universal History, partxii.. assign forty millions sterling as the sum to 
about which the public revenue might amount. — G. from W. 

t It is not astonishing that August us held tins language: The senate declared 
also under Nero, that the state could not exist without the i "posts as well aug- 
mented as founded by Augustus. Tac. Ann. xiii. 50. After the abolition of the 
different tributes p-iid by Italy, an abolition which took place A. V. 646, 6P4, and 
695, the state derived no revenues from that great country, but the twentieth part 
of the manumissions (vicesima manumissionum") ; and Cicero Inments this in 
many places, particularly in his epistles to Atticus, ii. 15.— G. from W. 


of this unpopular design, he advanced, however, by cautious 
and well-weighed steps. The introduction of customs was 
followed by the establishment of an excise, and the scheme 
of taxation was completed by an artful assessment on the 
real and personal property of the Roman citizens, who had 
been exempted from any kind of contribution above a 
century and a half. 

I. In a great empire like that of Rome, a natural balance 
of money must have gradually established itself. It has 
been already observed that, as the wealth of the provinces 
was attracted to the capital by the strong hand of con- 
quest and power, so a considerable part of it was restored 
to the industrious provinces by the gentle influence of com- 
merce and arts. In the reitm of Augustus and his succes- 
sors, duties were imposed on every kind of merchandise, 
which through a thousand channels flowed to the great cen- 
tre of opulence and luxury ; and in whatsoever manner the 
law was expressed, it was the Roman purchaser, and not the 
provincial merchant, who paid the tax. 97 The rate of the 
customs varied from the eighth to the fortieth part of the 
value of the commodity ; and we have a right to suppose 
that the variation w r as directed by the unalterable maxims 
of policy ; that a higher duty was fixed on the articles of 
luxury than on those of necessity, and that the productions 
raised or manufactured by the labor of the subjects of the 
empire were treated with more indulgence than was shown 
to the pernicious, or at least the unpopular, commerce of 
Arabia and India. 98 There is still extant a long but imper- 
fect catalogue of eastern commodities which about the 
time of Alexander Severus were subject to the payment of 
duties ; cinnamon, myrrh, pepper, ginger, and the whole 
tribe of aromatics ; a great variety of precious stones, 
among w T hich the diamond was the most remarkable for its 
price, and the emerald for its beauty ; " Parthian and 
Babylonian leather, cottons, silks, both raw and manufac- 

97 Tacit. Arinal. xiii. 31.* 

08 See Pliuy (Hist. Natur. 1. vi. c. 2%lxii. C 18). His observation, that the Indian 
commodities were sold at Rome at a hundred times their original price, may give 
us some notion of the produce of the customs, since that original price amounted 
to more than eight hundred thousand pounds. 

93 The ancients were unacquainted with the art of cutting diamonds. 

* The customs (portorin) existed in the times of the ancient kings of Rome. 
They were sunpressed in Italy. A. U. P>04, l>y1he Praetor. Cecilius Metellus Nepos. 
Augustus only reestablished them. See note above.— W. 


tared, ebony, ivory, and eunuchs. 100 We may observe that 
the use and value of those effeminate slaves gradually rose 
with the decline of the empire. 

II. The excise, introduced by Augustus after the civil 
wars, was extremely moderate, but it was general. It sel- 
dom exceeded one per cent. ; but it comprehended whatever 
was sold in the markets or by public auction, from the most 
considerable purchases of lands and houses, to those minute 
objects which can only derive a value from their infinite 
multitude and daily consumption. Such a tax, as it affects 
the body of the people, has ever been the occasion of clamor 
and discontent. An emperor well acquainted with the 
wants and resources of the state was obliged to declare, by 
a public edict, that the support of the army depended in a 
great measure on the produce of the excise. 101 

III. When Augustus resolved to establish a permanent 
military force for the defence of his government against 
foreign and domestic enemies, he instituted a peculiar 
treasury for the pay of the soldiers, the rewards of the 
veterans, and the extraordinary expenses of war. The 
ample revenue of the excise, though peculiarly appropriated 
to those uses, was found inadequate. To supply the defi- 
ciency, the emperor suggested a new tax of five per cent, 
on all legacies and inheritances. But the nobles of Rome 
were more tenacious of property than of freedom. Their 
indignant murmurs were received by Augustus with his 
usual temper. He candidly referred the whole business to 
the senate, and exhorted them to provide for the public 
service by some other expedient of a less odious nature. 
They were divided and perplexed. He insinuated to them, 
that their obstinacy would oblige him to propose a general 
land tax and capitation. They acquiesced in silence. 102 
The new imposition on legacies and inheritances was, how- 
ever, mitigated by some restrictions. It did not take place 

100 M. Bouchaud, in his treatise de l'Impot chez les Eomains, has transcribed 
this catalogue from the Digest, and attempts to illustrate it by a very prolix com- 

101 Tacit. Annal. i. 78. Two years afterwards, the reduction of the poor king- 
dom of Cappadocia gave Tiberius a pretence for diminishing the excise to one 
half, but the relief was of very short duration. 

102 Dion Cassius, 1. lv. p. 79a, 1. lvi. p. 8274 

* In the Pandects, 1. 39, t. 14, de Publican. Compare Cicero in Yerrem, ii. c. 
72-74.— W. 

t Dion neither mentions this proposition nor the capitation. He only says that 
the emperor imposed a tax upon lauded property, and sent everywhere men em- 
ployed to make a survey, without fixing how much, and for how much each was 
to pay. The senators then preferred giving their assent to the tax on legacies and 
inheritances. — W. 


unless the object was of a certain value, most probably of 
fifty or a hundred pieces of gold; 10:J nor could it be 
exacted from the nearest of kin on the father's side. 104 
When the rights of nature and poverty were thus secured, 
it seemed reasonable that a stranger, or a distant relation, 
who acquired an unexpected accession of fortune, should 
cheerfully resign a twentieth part of it for the benefit of 
the state*. 105 

Such a tax, plentiful as it may prove in every wealthy 
community, was most happily suited to the situation of the 
Romans, who could frame their arbitrary wills, according 
to ihe dictates of reason or caprice, without any restraint 
from the modern fetters of entails and settlements. From 
various causes, the partiality of paternal affection often lost 
its influence over the stern patriots of the commonwealth 
and the dissolute nobles of the empire ; and if the father 
bequeathed to his son the fourth part of his estate, he 
removed all ground of legal complaint. 100 But a rich 
childless old man was a domestic tyrant, and his power 
increased with his years and infirmities. A servile crowd, 
in which he frequently reckoned praetors and consuls, 
courted his smiles, pampered his avarice, applauded his 
follies, served his passions, and waited with impatience for 
his death. The arts of attendance and flattery were formed 
into a most lucrative science ; those who professed it 
acquired a peculiar appellation ; and the whole city, accord- 
ing to the lively descriptions of satire, was divided between 
two parties, the hunters and their game. 107 Yet, while so 
many unjust and extravagant wills were every day dictated 
by cunning and subscribed by folly, a few were the result 
of rational esteem and virtuous gratitude. Cicero, who had 
so often defended the lives and fortunes of his fellow- 
citizens, was rewarded with legacies to the amount of a 
hundred and seventy thousand pounds ; 108 nor do the 
friends of the younger Pliny seem to have been less gener- 
ous to that amiable orator. 109 Whatever was the motive of 

ln3 The sum is only fixed by conjecture. 

104 As the Roman law subsisted tor many ages, the Cognali, or relations on the 
mother's side, were not called to the succession. This harsh institution was 
gradually undermined by humanity, and finally abolished by Justinian. 

U6 Plin. Panegyric, c. 37. 

100 See Heineccius in the Antiquit. Juris Romani, 1. ii. 

wi Horat. 1. ii. Sat. v. Petron. c. 116, &c. Plin. 1. ii. Epist. 20. 

i°s Cicero in Philip, ii. c. 1G. 

103 See his epistles. Every such will gave him an occasion of displaying his 
reverence to the dead, and his justice to the living. He reconciled both in his 
behavior to a son who had been disinherited by his mother (v. 1). 


the testator, the treasury claimed, without distinction, the 
twentieth part of his estate : and in the course of two or 
three generations the whole property of the subject must 
have gradually passed through the coffers of the state. 

In the first and golden years of the reign of Nero, that 
prince, from a desire of popularity; and perhaps from a 
blind impulse of benevolence, conceived a wish of abolish- 
ing the oppression of the customs and excise. The wisest 
senators applauded his magnanimity : but they diverted 
him from the execution of a design which would have dis- 
solved the strength and resources of the republic. 110 Had it 
indeed been possible to realize this dream of fancy, such 
princes as Trajan and the Antonines would surely have 
embraced with ardor the glorious opportunity of conferring 
so signal an obligation on mankind. Satisfied, however, 
with alleviating the public burden, they attempted not to 
remove it. The mildness and precision of their laws ascer- 
tained the rule and measure of taxation, and protected the 
subject of every rank against arbitrary interpretations, 
antiquated claims, and the insolent vexation of the farmers 
of the revenue. 111 For it is somewhat singular, that, in 
every age, the best and wisest of the Roman governors 
persevered in this pernicious method of collecting the prin- 
cipal branches at least of the excise and customs. 112 

The sentiments, and, indeed, the situation, of Caracalla 
were very different from those of the Antonines. Inatten- 
tive, or rather averse, to the welfare of his people, he found 
himself under the necessity of gratifying the insatiate avarice 
which he had excited in the army. Of the several imposi- 
tions introduced by Augustus, the twentieth on inheritances 
and legacies was the most fruitful, as well as the most 
comprehensive. As its influence was not confined to Rome 
or Italy, the produce continually increased with the gradual 
extension of the Roman City. .The new citizens, though 
charged, on equal terms, 113 with the payment of new taxes, 
which had not effected them as subjects, derived an ample 
compensation from the rank they obtained, the privileges 
they acquired, and the fair prospect of honors and fortune 
that was thrown open to their ambition. But the favor 

1:0 Tacit. Annal. xiii. 50. Esprit des Loix, 1. xii. c. 10. 

m See Pliny's Panegyric, the Augustan History, and Burman. de Vectigal. 

112 The tributes (properly so called) were not farmed ; since the good princes 
often remitted many millions of arrears. 

113 The situation of the new citizens is minutely described by Pliny (Panegyric, 
c. 37, u8, 3D). Trajan published a law very much in their favor. 


which implied a distinction was lost in the prodigality of 
Caracal la, and the reluctant provincials were compelled to 
assume the vain title, and the real obligations, of Roman 
citizens.* Nor was the rapacious son of Severus contented 
with such a measure of taxation as had appeared sufficient 
to his moderate predecessors. Instead of a twentieth, he 
exacted a tenth of all legacies and inheritances ; and during 
his reign (for the ancient proportion was restored after his 
death) he crushed alike every part of the empire under the 
weight of his iron sceptre. 114 

When all the provincials became liable to the peculiar 
impositions of Roman citizens, they seemed to acquire a 
legal exemption from the tributes which they had paid in 
their former condition of subjects. Such were not the 
maxims of government adopted by Caracalla and his pre- 
tended son. The old as w r ell as the new taxes were, at the 
same time, levied in the provinces. It was reserved for 
the virtue of Alexander to relieve them in a great measure 
from this intolerable grievance, by reducing the tributes to 
a thirtieth part of the sum exacted at the time of his 
accession. 115 It is impossible to conjecture the motive that 
engaged him to spare so trifling a remnant of the public 
evil ; but the noxious weed, which had not been totally 
eradicated, again sprang up with the most luxuriant growth, 
and in the succeeding jiijo darkened the Roman world with 
its deadly shade. In the course of this history, we shall be 
too often summoned to explain the land tax, the capitation, 
and the heavy contributions of corn, wine, oil, and meat, 
which were exacted from the provinces for the use of the 
court, the army, and the capital. 

As long as Rome and Italy were respected as the centre 
of government, a national spirit was preserved by the ancient, 
and insensibly imbibed by the adopted, citizens. The prin- 
cipal commands of the army were filled by men who had re- 

i^Dion, 1. lxxvii. p. 1295. 

115 He who paid ten aurei, Hie usual tribute, was charged with no more than 
the third part of an aureus, and proportional pieces of .uold were coined by Alex- 
ander's order. Hist. August, p. 127, with the commentary of Salmasius. 

* Gibbon has adopted the opinion of Spanheim and of Burraan, which attrib- 
ute:* to Caracalla this edict, which gave the right of the city to all the inhabitants 
of (he provinces. This opinion maybe disputv d. Several passages of Spartianus, 
of Aurelius Victor, and of Aristides, attribute this edict to Marc. Aurelius. See 
a learned essay, entitled Job. P. Mahneri Comm. de Marc. Aur. Antonino Con- 
stitutionis de rivitate Universo Orbi Romano data auctore. Halae, 1772, 8vo. It 
appears that Marc. Aurelius made some modifications of this edict, which re- 
leased che provincials from some of the charges imposed by the right of the city, 
and deprived them of some of the advantages which it conferred. Caracalla an- 
nulled theee modifications.— W. 


ceived a liberal education, were well instructed in the ad- 
vantages of laws and letters, and who had risen, by equal 
steps, through the regular succession of civil and military 
honors. 116 To their influence and example we may partly 
ascribe the modest obedience of the legions during the two 
first centuries of the Imperial history. 

But when the last enclosure of the Roman constitution 
was trampled down by Caracaila, the separation of profes- 
sions gradually succeeded to the distinction of ranks. The 
more polished citizens of the internal provinces were alone 
qualified to act as lawyers and magistrates. The rougher 
trade of arms was abandoned to the peasants and barbarians 
of the frontiers, who knew no country but their camp, no 
science but that of war, no civil laws, and scarcely those of 
military discipline. With bloody hands, savage manners, 
and desperate resolutions, they sometimes guarded, but much 
oftener subverted, the throne of the emperors. 

116 See the lives of Agricola, Vespasian, Trajan, Severus, and his three com- 
petitors ; and indeed of all the eminent men of those times. 








Of the various forms of government which have pre- 
vailed in the world, an hereditary monarchy seems to present 
the fairest scope for ridicule. Is it possible to relate without 
an indignant smile, that, on the father's decease, the prop- 
erty of a nation, like that of a drove of oxen, descends to 
his infant son, as yet unknown to mankind and to himself ; 
and that the bravest warriors and the wisest statesmen, re- 
linquishing their natural right to empire, approach the royal 
cradle with bended knees and protestations of inviolable 
fidelity? Satire and declamation may paint these obvious 
topics in the most dazzling colors, but our more serious 
thoughts will respect a useful prejudice that establishes a rule 
of succession, independent of the passions of mankind; and 
we shall cheerfully acquiesce in any expedient which deprives 
the multitude of the dangerous, and indeed the ideal, power 
of giving themselves a master. 

In the cool shade of retirement, we may easily devise 
imaginary forms of government, in which the sceptre shall 
be constantly bestowed on the most worthy by the free and 
incorrupt suffrage of the whole community. Experience 
overturns these airy fabrics, and teaches us that in a large 
society the election of a monarch can never devolve to the 
wisest, or to the most numerous, part of the people. The 
army is the only order of men sufficiently united to concur 
in the same sentiments, and powerful enough to impose them 
on the rest of their fellow-citizens ; but the temper of sol- 
diers, habituated at once to violence and to slavery, renders 
them very unfit guardians of a legal or even a civil consti- 
tution. Justice, humanity, or political wisdom, are qualities 
they are too little acquainted with in themselves to appre- 


ciate them in others. Valor will acquire their esteem, and 
liberality will purchase their suffrage ; but the lirst of these 
merits is often lodged in the most savasre breasts : the latter 
can only exert itself at the expense of the public ; and both 
may be turned against the possessor of the throne by the 
ambition of a daring rival. 

The superior prerogative of birth, when it has attained 
the sanction of time and popular opinion, is the plainest and 
least invidious of all distinctions among mankind. The 
acknowledged right extinguishes the hopes of faction, and 
the conscious security disarms the cruelty of the monarch. 
To the firm establishment of this idea we owe the peaceful 
succession and mild administration of European monarchies. 
To the defect of it we must attribute the frequent civil wars 
through which an Asiatic despot is obliged to cut his way to 
the throne of his fathers. Yet, even in the East, the sphere 
of contention is usually limited to the princes of the reigning 
house, and as soon as the more fortunate competitor has re- 
moved his brethren by the sword and the bowstring, he no 
longer entertains any jealousy of his meaner subjects. But 
the Homaii empire, after the authority of the senate had sunk 
into contempt, was a vast scene of confusion. The royal, 
and even noble, families of the provinces had long since been 
led m triumph before the car of the haughty republicans. 
The ancient families of Rome had successively fallen beneath 
the tyranny of the Cassars ; and whilst those princes were 
shackled by the forms of a commonwealth, and disappointed 
by the repeated failure of their posterity, 1 it was impossible 
that any idea of hereditary succession should have taken root 
in the minds of their subjects. The right to the throne, which 
none could claim from birth, every one assumed from merit. 
The daring hopes of ambition were set loose from the salu- 
tary restraints of law and prejudice ; and the meanest of 
mankind might, without folly, entertain a hope of being 
raised by valor and fortune to a rank in the army, in which 
a single crime would enable him to wrest the sceptre of the 
world from his feeble and unpopular master. After the 
murder of Alexander Severus, and the elevation of Maxi- 
min, no emperor could think himself safe upon the throne, 
and every barbarian peasant of the frontier might aspire to 
that august, but dangerous station. 

1 There had been no example of three successive generations on the throne ; 
only three instances of sons who succeeded their lathers. The marriages of the 
Cresars (notwithstanding the permission, and the frequent practice, of divorces) 
were generally unfruitful. 


About thirty-two years before that event, the emperor 
Severus, returning from an eastern expedition, halted, in 
Thrace to celebrate, with military games, the birthday of his 
younger son, Geta, The country flocked in crowds to behold 
their sovereign, and a young barbarian of gigantic stature 
earnestly solicited, in his rude dialect, that he might be 
allowed to contend for the prize of wrestling. As the pride 
of discipline would have been disgraced in the overthrow of 
a Roman soldier by a Thracian peasant, he was matched with 
the stoutest followers of the camp, sixteen of whom he suc- 
cessively laid on the ground. His victory was rewarded by 
some trilling gifts, and a permission to enlist in the troops. 
The next day the happy barbarian was distinguished above 
a crowd of recruits, dancing and exulting after the fashion 
of his country. As soon as he perceived that he had at- 
tracted the emperor's notice, he instantly ran up to his horse, 
and followed him on foot, without the least appearance of 
fatigue, in a long and rapid career. " Thracian," said Seve- 
rus with astonishment, " art thou disposed to wrestle after 
thy race?" "Most willingly, sir," replied the unwearied 
youth ; and, almost in a breath, overthrew seven of the 
strongest soldiers in the army. A gold collar was the prize 
of his matchless vigor and activity, and he was immediately 
appointed to serve in the horse-guards, who always attended 
on the person of the sovereign. 2 

Maximin, for that was his name, though born on the ter- 
ritories of the empire, descended from a mixed race of bar- 
barians. His father was a Goth, and his mother of the nation 
of the Alani. He displayed on every occasion a valor equal 
to his strength ; and his native fierceness was soon tempered 
or disguised by the knowledge of the world. Under the 
reign of Severus and his son he obtained the rank of centu- 
rion, with the favor and esteem of both those jn-inces, the 
former of whom was an excellent judge of merit. Gratitude 
forbade Maximin to serve under the assassin of Caracalla. 
Honor taught him to decline the effeminate insults of Ela- 
gabalus. On the accession of Alexander, he returned to 
court, and was placed by that prince in a station useful to 
the service and honorable to himself. The fourth legion, 
to which he was appointed tribune, soon became, under his 
care, the best disciplined of the whole army. With the 
general applause of the soldiers, who bestowed on their 
favorite hero the names of Ajax and Hercules, he was suc- 

2 Hist. August: p. 138. 



cessively promoted to the first military command ; 3 and had 
not he still retained too much of his savage origin, the em- 
peror might perhaps have given his own sister in marriage to 
the son of Maximin. 4 

Instead of securing his fidelity, these favors served only 
to inflame the ambition of the Thracian peasant, who deemed 
his fortune inadequate to his merit, as long as he was con- 
strained to acknowledge a superior. Though a stranger to 
real wisdom, he was not devoid of a selfish cunning, which 
showed him that the emperor had lost the affection of the 
army, and taught him to improve their discontent to his 
own advantage. It is easy for faction and calumny to shed 
their poison on the administration of the best of princes, and 
to accuse even their virtues by artfully confounding them 
with those vices to which they bear the nearest affinity. The 
troops listened with pleasure to the emissaries of Maximin. 
They blushed at their own ignominious patience, which, dar- 
ing thirteen years, had supported the vexatious discipline 
imposed by an effeminate Syrian, the timid slave of his 
mother and of the senate. It was time, they cried, to cast 
away that useless phantom of the civil power, and to elect 
for their prince and general a real soldier, educated in camps, 
exercised in war, who would assert the glory and distribute 
among his companions the treasures of the empire. A great 
army was at that time assembled on the banks of the Rhine, 
under the command of the emperor himself, who, almost 
immediately after his return from the Persian war, had been 
obliged to march against the barbarians of Germany. The 
important care of training and reviewing the new levies was 
entrusted to Maximin. One day, as he entered the field of 
exercise, the troops, either from a sudden impulse, or a formed 
conspiracy, saluted him emperor, silenced by their loud ac- 
clamations his obstinate refusal, and hastened to consum- 
mate their rebellion by the murder of Alexander Severus. 

The circumstances of his death are variously related. 
The writers who suppose that he died in ignorance of the 
ingratitude and ambition of Maximin affirm that, after 
taking a frugal repast in the sight of the army, he retired to 
sleep, and that, about the seventh hour of the day, a part of 

3 Hist. August, p. 140. Herodian, 1. vi. p. 22.^. Aurelius Victor. By comparing 
these authors, it should seem that Maximin had the particular command of the 
Tribellian horse, with the general commission of disciplining the recruits o" the 
whole army. His biographer ought to have marked, with more care, hisexpiuits, 
and the successive steps of his military promotions. 

* See the original letter of Alexander Severus, Hist. August, p. 149, 


his own guards broke into the Imperial tent, and, with many 
wounds, assassinated their virtuous and unsuspecting prince. 5 
If we credit another, and indeed a more probable account, 
Maximin was invested with the purple by a numerous de- 
tachment, at the distance of several miles from the head- 
quarters ; and he trusted for success rather to the secret 
Avishes than to the public declarations of the great army. 
Alexander had sufficient time to awaken a faint sense of 
loyalty among his troops ; but their reluctant professions of 
fidelity quickly vanished on the appearance of Maximin, who 
declared himself the friend and advocate of the military order, 
and was unanimously acknowledged emperor of the Romans 
by the applauding legions. The son of Mamsea, betrayed 
and deserted, withdrew into his tent, desirous at least to 
conceal his approaching fate from the insults of the multi- 
tude. He was soon followed by a tribune and some centu- 
rions, the ministers of death; but instead of receiving with 
manly resolution the inevitable stroke, his unavailing cries 
and entreaties disgraced the last moments of his life, and 
converted into contempt some portion of the just pity which 
his innocence and misfortunes must inspire. His mother 
Mamyea, whose pride and avarice he loudly accused as the 
cause of his ruin, perished with her son. The most faithful 
of his friends were sacrificed to the first fury of the soldiers. 
Others were reserved for the more deliberate cruelty of the 
usurper; and those who experienced the mildest treatment 
were stripped of their employments and ignominiously 
driven from the court and army. 6 

The former tyrants, Caligula and Nero, Commodus and 
Caracalla, were all dissolute and unexperienced youths, 7 ed- 
ucated in the purple, and corrupted by the pride of empire, 
the luxury of Rome, and the perfidious voice of flattery. 
The cruelty of Maximin was derived from a different source, 
the fear of contempt. Though he depended on the attach- 
ment of the soldiers, who loved him for virtues like their 
own, he was conscious that his mean and barbarian origin, 
his savage appearance, and his total ignorance of the arts 

5 Hist. August, p. 135. I have softened some of the most improbable circum- 
stances of this wretched biographer. From this ill- worded narration, it should 
seem that the prince £ buffoon having accidentally entered the tent, and awakened 
the slumbering monarch, the fear of punishment urged him to persuade the dis- 
affected soldiers to commit the murder. 

o Ilerodian, 1. vi. p. 223-227. 

7 Caligula, the eldest of the four, was only twenty-five years of age when he as- 
cended the throne ; Caracalla was twenty-three, Commodus nineteen, and Nero 
no more than seventeen. 


and institutions of civil life, 8 formed a very unfavorable 
contrast with the amiable manners of the unhappy Alexander. 
He remembered, that, in his humbler fortune, he had often 
waited before the door of the haughty nobles of Rome, and had 
been denied admittance by the insolence of their slaves. He 
recollected too the friendship of a few who had relieved his 
poverty, and assisted his rising hopes. But those who had 
spurned, and those who had protected, the Thracian were guil- 
ty of the same crime, the knowledge of bis original obscurity. 
For this crime many were put to death ; and by the execu- 
tion of several of his benefactors, Maximin published, in 
characters of blood, the indelible history of his baseness and 
ingratitude. 9 

The dark and sanguinary soul of the tyrant was open to 
every suspicion against those among his subjects who were 
the most distinguished by their birth or merit. Whenever 
he was alarmed with the sound of treason, his cruelty was 
unbounded and unrelenting. A conspiracy against his life 
was either discovered or imagined, and Magnus, a consular 
senator, was named as the principal author of it. Without 
a witness, without a trial, and without an opportunity of 
defence, Magnus, with four thousand of his supposed ac- 
complices, was put to death. Italy and the whole empire 
was infested with innumerable spies and informers. On the 
slightest accusation, the first of the Roman nobles, who had 
governed provinces, commanded armies, and been adorned 
with the consular and triumphal ornaments, w r ere chained on 
the public carriages, and hurried away to the emperor's 
presence. Confiscation, exile, or simple death, were esteemed 
uncommon instances of his lenity. Some of the unfortunate 
sufferers he ordered to be sewed up in the hides of slaughtered 
animals, others to be exposed to wild beasts, others again to 
be beaten to death with clubs. During the three years of 
his reign, he disdained to visit either Rome or Italy. His 
camp, occasionally removed from tne banks of the Rhine to 
those of the Danube, was the seat of his stern despotism, 
which trampled on every principle of law and justice, and 
was supported by the avowed power of the sword. 10 No 

8 It appears that he was totally ignorant of the Greelc language; which, from 
its universal use in conversation and letters, was an essential part of every liberal 

'•'Hist. August, p. 141. Herodian, 1. vii. p. 237. The latter of these historians 
has been most unjustly censured for sparing the vices of Maximin. 

10 The wife of Maximin, by insinuating wise counsels with female gentleness, 
sometimes brought back the tyrant to the way of truth and humanity. See Am- 
mianus Marcellmus, 1. xiv. c. 1, where he alludes to the fact which he had more 


man of noble birth, elegant accomplishments, or knowledge 
of civil business, was suffered near his person ; and t^e court 
of a Roman emperor revived the idea of those ancient chiefs 
of slaves and gladiators, whose savage power had left a deep 
impression of terror and detestation. 11 

As long as the cruelty of Maximin was confined to the 
illustrious senators, or even to the bold adventurers who in 
the court or army expose themselves to the caprice of for- 
tune, the body of the people viewed their sufferings with in- 
difference, or perhaps with pleasure. But the tyrant's ava- 
rice, stimulated by the insatiate desires of the soldiers, at 
length attacked the public property. Every city of the em- 
pire was possessed of an independent revenue, destined to 
purchase corn for the multitude, and to supply the expenses 
of the games and entertainments. By a single act of author- 
ity, the whole mass of wealth was at once confiscated for the 
use of the Imperial treasury. The temples were stripped of 
their most valuable offerings of gold and silver, and the 
statues of gods, heroes, and emperors, were melted down 
and coined into money. These impious orders could not be 
executed without tumults and massacres, as in many places 
the people chose rather to die in the defence of their altars 
than to behold in the midst of peace their cities exposed to 
the rapine and cruelty of war. The soldiers themselves, 
among whom this sacrilegious plunder was distributed, re- 
ceived it with a blush ; and hardened as they were in acts 
of violence, they dreaded the just reproaches of their friends 
and relations. Throughout the Roman world a general cry 
of indignation was heard, imploring vengeance on the com- 
mon enemy of human kind; and at length by an act of 
private oppression, a peaceful and unarmed province was 
driven into rebellion against him. 12 

The procurator of Africa was a servant worthy of such 
a master, who considered the fines and confiscations of the 
rich as one of the most fruitful branches of the Imperial 
revenue. An iniquitous sentence had been pronounced 
against some opulent youths of that country, the execution 

fully related under the reign of the Gordians. We may collect from the medals, 
thai Paullina was the name of this benevolent empress ; and from the title of 
Diva, that she died before Maximin. (Valesius ad loc. cit. Ammian.) Spanheim 
de U. et P. N. torn. ii. p. 300.* 

11 He was compared to Spartacus and Athenio. Hist. August, p, 141. 

12 Herodian, 1. vii. p. 238. Zosim. 1. i. p. 15. 

* Tf we may believe Syncellus and Zonaras, it was Maximin himself who order- 
ed her death. — G. 


of which would have stripped them of far the greater part 
of they* patrimony. In this extremity, a resolution that 
must either complete or prevent their ruin was dictated by 
despair. A respite of three days, obtained with difficult}' 
from the rapacious treasurer, was employed in collecting 
from their estates a great number of slaves and peasants 
blindly devoted to the commands of their lords, and armed 
with the rustic weapons of clubs and axes. The leaders of 
the conspiracy, as they were admitted to the audience of 
the procurator, stabbed him with the daggers concealed 
under their garments, and, by the assistance of their tumul- 
tuary train, seized on the little town of Thysdrus, 13 and 
erected the standard of rebellion against the sovereign of 
the Roman empire. They rested their hopes on the hatred 
of mankind against Maximin, and they judiciously resolved 
to oppose to that detested tyrant an emperor whose mild 
virtues had already acquired the love and esteem of the 
Romans, and whose authority over the province would 
give weight and stability to the enterprise. Gordianus, 
their proconsul, and the object of their choice, refused, with 
unfeigned reluctance, the dangerous honor, and begged with 
tears, that they would suffer him to terminate in peace a 
long and innocent life, without staining his feeble age with 
civil blood. Their menaces compelled him to accept the 
Imperial purple, his only refuge, indeed, against the jealous 
cruelty of Maximin ; since, according to the reasoning of 
tyrants, those who have been esteemed worthy of the throne 
deserve death, and those who deliberate have already 
rebelled. 14 

The family of Gordianus w r as one of the most illustrious 
of the Roman senate. On the father's side he was de- 
scended from the Gracchi ; on his mother's, from the 
emperor Trajan. A great estate enabled him to support 
the dignity of his birth, and in the enjoyment of it, he dis- 
played an elegant taste and beneficent disposition. The 
palace in Rome formerly inhabited by the great Pompey 
had been, during several generations, in the possession of 
Gordian's family. 15 It was distinguished by ancient trophies 

13 In the fertile territory of Byzacium, one hundred and fifty miles to the south 
of Carthage. This city was decorated, probably by the Gordians, with the title cf 
colony, and with a line amphitheatre, which is still in a very perfect state. See 
Itinerar. Wesseling, p. 59 ; and Shaw's Travels, p. 117. 

14 Herodian, 1. vii. p. 2.°.!). Hist. August, p. 15.'5. 

15 Hist. Aug. p. 152. The celebrated house of Pompey incarinis was usurped by 
Marc Antony, mid consequently became, after the Triumvir's death, a part of the 
Imperial domain. The emperor Trajan allowed, and even encouraged, the rich 


of naval victories, and decorated with the works of modern 
painting. His villa on the road to Prseneste was celebrated 
for baths of singular beauty and extent, for three stately 
rooms of one hundred feet in length, and for a magnificent 
portico, supported by two hundred columns of the four 
most curious and costly sorts of marble. 10 The public 
shows exhibited at his expense, and in which the people 
were entertained with many hundreds of wild beasts and 
gladiators, 17 seem to surpass the fortune of a subject; and 
whilst the liberality of other magistrates was confined to a 
few solemn festivals in Rome, the magnificence of Gordian 
was repeated, when he was sedile, every month in the year, 
and extended, during his consulship, to the principal cities 
of Italy. He was twice elevated to the last-mentioned 
dignity, by Caracalla and by Alexander ; for he possessed 
the uncommon talent of acquiring the esteem of virtuous 
princes, without alarming the jealousy of tyrants. His 
long life was innocently spent in the study of letters and the 
peaceful honors of Rome ; and, till he was named proconsul 
of Africa by the voice of the senate and the approbation of 
Alexander, 18 he appears prudently to have declined the 
command of armies and the government of provinces.* As 
long as that emperor lived, Africa was happy under the 
administration of his worthy representative : after the bar- 
barous Maximin had usurped the throne, Gordianus nlle- 
viated the miseries which he was unable to ]n*event. When 
he reluctantly accepted the purple, he was above fourscore 
years old ; a last and valuable remains of the happy age of 
the Antonines, whose virtues he revived in his own conduct, 
and celebrated in an elegant poem of thirty books. With 
the venerable proconsul, his son, who had accompanied him 

senators to purchase those magnificent and useless palaces (Plin. Panegyric, c. 50) ; 
and it may seem probable, that, on this occasion, Pompey's house came into the 
possession of Gordian's great-grandfather. 

16 The Claudian, the Numidian, the Carystian, and the Synnadian. The colors 
of Roman marbles have been faintly described and imperfectly distinguished. It 
appears, however, that the Carystian was a sea-green, and that the marble of Syn- 
nada was white mixed with oval spots of purple. See Salmasius ad Hist. August. 
p. 164. 

17 Hist. August, p. 151, 152. He sometimes gave five hundred pair of gladiators, 
never less than one hundred and fifty. He once gave for the use cf the circus 
one hundred Sicilian and as many Cappadocian horses. The animals designed 
for hunting were ehieliy b^ais, boais, bulls, stags, elks, wild asses, &c. Elephants 
and lions seem to have been appropriated to Imperial magnificence. 

18 See the original letter, in the Augustan History, p. 152, which at once shows 
Alexander's respect for the authority of the senate, and his esteem for the pro- 
consul appointed by that assembly. 

* Herodian expressly says that he had administered many provinces, lib. vii. 
10.— W. 


into Africa as his lieutenant, was likewise declared emperor. 
His manners were less pure, but his character was equally 
amiable with that of his father. Twenty-two acknowledged 
concubines, and a library of sixty-two thousand volumes, 
attested the variety of his inclinations ; and from the pro- 
ductions which he left behind him, it appears that the 
former as well as the latter were designed for use rather 
than for ostentation. 19 The Roman people acknowledged 
in the features of the younger Gordian the resemblance of 
Scipio African us,* recollected with pleasure that his mother 
was the granddaughter of Antoninus Pius, and rested the 
public hope on those latent virtues which had hitherto, as 
they fondly imagined, lain concealed in the luxuriant indo- 
lence of private life. 

As soon as the Gordians had appeased the first tumult 
of a popular election, they removed their court to Carthage. 
They were received with the acclamations of the Africans, 
who honored their virtues, and who, since the visit of 
Hadrian, had never beheld the majesty of a Roman emperor. 
But these vain acclamations neither strengthened nor con- 
firmed the title of the Gordians. They were induced by 
principle, as well as interest, to solicit the approbation of 
the senate; and a deputation of the noblest provincials 
was sent, Avithout delay, to Rome, to relate and justify 
the conduct of their countrymen, who, having long suffered 
with patience, were at length resolved to act with vigor. 
The letters of the new princes were modest and respectful, 
excusing the necessity which had obliged them to accept 
the Imperial title ; but submitting their election and their 
fate to the supreme judgment of the senate. 20 

The inclinations of the senate were neither doubtful nor 
divided. The birth and noble alliances of the Gordians had 
intimately connected them with the most illustrious houses 
of Rome. Their fortune had created many dependents in 
that assembly, their merit had acquired many friends. 
Their mild administration opened the flattering prospect of 
the restoration, not only of the civil but even of the republi- 
can government. The terror of military violence, which 
had first obliged the senate to forget the murder of Alex- 

19 By each of his concubines, the younger Gordian left three or four children. 
His literary productions, though less numerous, were by no means contemptible. 

20 Herodian, 1. vii. p. 243. Hist. August, p. 144. 

* Not the personal likeness, but the family descent from the Scipios. — W. 


ander, and to ratify the election of a barbarian peasant, 21 
now produced a contrary effect, and provoked them to 
assert the injured rights of freedom and humanity. The 
hatred of Maximin towards the senate was declared and 
implacable ; the tamest submission had not appeased his 
fury, the most cautious innocence would not remove his 
suspicions; and even the care of their own safety urged them 
to share the fortune of an enterprise, of which (if unsuccess- 
ful) they were sure to be the first victims. These consid- 
erations, and perhaps others of a more private nature, were 
debated in a previous conference of the consuls and the 
magistrates. As soon as their resolution was decided, they 
convoked in the temple of Castor the whole body of the 
senate, according to an ancient form of secrecy, 22 calculated 
to awaken their attention and to conceal their decrees. 
"Conscript fathers," said the consul Syllanus, "the two 
Gordians, both of consular dignity, the one your proconsul, 
the other your lieutenant, have been declared emperors by 
the general consent of Africa. Let us return thanks," he 
boldly continued, " to the youth of Thysdrus ; let us return 
thanks to the faithful people of Carthage, our generous 
deliverers from a horrid monster — Why do you hear me 
thus coolly, thus timidly? Why do you cast those anxious 
looks on each other? Why hesitate? Maximin is a public 
enemy ! may his enmity soon expire with him, and may we 
long enjoy the prudence and felicity of Gordian the father, 
the valor and constancy of Gordian the son ! " 23 The noble 
ardor of the consul revived the languid spirit of the senate. 
By a unanimous decree, the election of the Gordians was 
ratified, Maximin, his son, and his adherents, were pro- 
nounced enemies of their country, and liberal rewards were 
offered to whomsoever had the courage and good fortune 
to destroy them. 

During the emperor's absence, a detachment of the Prae- 
torian guards remained at Rome, to protect, or rather to 
command, the capital. The praefect Vitalianus had signal- 
ized his fidelity to Maximin, by the alacrity with which he 
had obeyed, and even prevented, the cruel mandates of the 

21 Quod tamen patres dum periculosum existimant ; inermes armato resistere 
approbaveruiit. — Aurelius Victor. 

- Even the servants of the house, the scribes, &c, were excluded, and their 
office was lilled by the senators themselves. We are obliged to the Augustan 
History, p. 159, for preserving this curious examplo of the discipline of the com- 
mon wenlth. 

2 ' ! This spirited speech, translated from the Augustan historian, p. 156, seema 
transcribed by him from the original registers ofthe senate. 


tyrant. His death alone could rescue the authority of the 
senate, and the lives of the senators, from a state of danger 
and suspense. Before their resolves had transpired, a quaes- 
tor and some tribunes were commissioned to take his de- 
voted life. They executed the order with equal boldness 
and success ; and, with their bloody daggers in their hands, 
ran through the streets, proclaiming to the people and the 
soldiers the news of the happy revolution. The enthusiasm 
of liberty was seconded by the promise of a large donative 
in lands and money ; the statues of Maximin were thrown 
down ; the capital of the empire acknowledged, with trans- 
port, the authority of the two Gordians and the senate : 24 
and the example of Rome was followed by the rest of 

A new spirit had arisen in that assembly, whose long 
patience had been insulted by wanton despotism and mili- 
tary license. The senate assumed the reins of government, 
and, with a calm intrepidity, prepared to vindicate by arms 
the cause of freedom. Anions the consular senators recom- 
mended by their merit and services to the favor of the em- 
peror Alexander, it was easy to select twenty, not unequal 
to the command of an army, and the conduct of a war. To 
these was the defence of Italy intrusted. Each was appointed 
to act in his respective department, authorized to enroll 
and discipline the Italian youth ; and instructed to fortify 
the ports and highways against the impending invasion of 
Maximin. A number of deputies, chosen from the most 
illustrious of'the senatorial! and equestrian orders, were dis- 
patched at the same time to the governors of the several 
provinces, earnestly conjuring them to fly to the assistance 
of their country, and to remind the nations of their ancient 
ties of friendship with the Roman senate and people. The 
general respect with which these deputies were received, 
and the zeal of Italy and the provinces in favor of the senate, 
sufficiently prove that the subjects of Maximin were reduced 
to that uncommon distress, in which the body of the people 
has more to fear from oppression than from resistance. The 
consciousness of that melancholy truth inspires a degree of 
j^ersevering fury seldom to be found in those civil wars 
which are artificially supported for the benefit of a few fac- 
tious and desi^nin^ leaders. 25 

For, while the cause of the Gordians was embraced with 

s* Herodian, 1. vii. p. 244. 

'-* Herodian, 1. vii. p. 247, 1. viii. p. 277. Hist. August, pp. 156-158. 


such diffusive ardor, the Gordians themselves were no more. 
The feeble court of Carthage was alarmed by the rapid ap- 
proach of Capelianus, governor of Mauritania, who, with 
a small band of Aeterans, and a fierce host of barbarians, 
attacked a faithful but unwarlike province. The younger 
Gordian sallied out to meet the enemy at the head of a few 
guards, and a numerous undisciplined multitude, educated 
in the peaceful luxury of Carthage. His useless valor served 
only to procure him an honorable death in the field of battle. 
His aged father, whose reign had not exceeded thirty-six 
days, put an end to his life on the first news of the defeat. 
Carthage, destitute of defence, opened her gates to the con- 
queror, and Africa Avas exposed to the rapacious cruelty of 
a slave, obliged to satisfy his unrelenting master with a large 
account of blood and treasure. 23 

The fate of the Gordians filled Rome with just but unex- 
pected terror. The senate, convoked in the temple of Con- 
cord, affected to transact the common business of the day; 
and seemed to decline, with trembling anxiety, the consider- 
ation of their own and the public danger. A silent conster- 
nation prevailed in the assembly, till a senator, of the name 
and family of Trajan, awakened his brethren from their 
fatal lethargy. He represented to them that the choice of 
cautious, dilatory measures had been long since out of their 
power ; that Maximin, implacable by nature, and exasperated 
by injuries, was advancing towards Italy at the head of the 
military force of the empire; and that their only remaining 
alternative was either to meet him bravely in the field, or 
tamely to expect the tortures and ignominous death reserved 
for unsuccessful rebellion. "We have lost," continued he, 
li two excellent princes ; but unless Ave desert ourselves, the 
hopes of the republic have not perished with the Gordians. 
Many arc the senators, whose virtues have deserved, and 
whose abilities would sustain, the Imperial dignity. Let us 
elect tAvo emperors, one of whom may conduct the Avar 
against the public enemy, whilst his colleague remains at 
Rome to direct the civil administration. I cheerfully ex- 
j)Ose myself to the danger and envy of the nomination, and 
give my A r ote in favor of Maximus and Balbinus. Ratify 
my choice, conscript fathers, or appoint, in their place, others 

2 'Hero<lian, 1. vii. p. 251. Hist. August, p. 151-1C). AA r e may observe, that 
on 3 month and six days, for the reigii of Gordian, is a just correction of (asaubon 
and Panvinius, instead of the absurd reading of one year and six months. See 
< o nmentar. p. W.). Zosimus relates, 1. i. p. 17. that the two Gordians perished 
by n tempest fn tbe midst of their navigation. A strange ignorance of history, or 
a strange abuse of metaphors ! 


more worthy of the empire." The general apprehension 
silenced the whispers of jealousy ; the merit of the candi- 
dates was universally acknowledged ; and the house resound- 
ed with the sincere acclamations of " Long life and victory 
to the emperors Maximus and Balbinus. You are happy in 
the judgment of the senate ; may the republic be happy un- 
der your administration ! " 27 

The virtues and the reputation of the new emperors jus- 
tified the most sanguine hopes of the Romans. The various 
nature of their talents seemed to appro] >riate to each his 
peculiar department of peace and war, without leaving room 
for jealous emulation. Balbinus was an admired orator, a 
poet of distinguished fame, and a wise magistrate, who had 
exercised with innocence and applause the civil jurisdiction 
in almost all the interior provinces of the empire. His 
birth was noble, 28 his fortune affluent, his manners liberal 
and affable. In him the love of pleasure was corrected by 
a sense of dignity, nor had the habits of ease deprived him 
of a capacity for business. The mind of Maximus was formed 
in a rougher mould. By his valor and abilities he had 
raised himself from the meanest origin to the first employ- 
ments of the state and army. His victories over the Sar- 
matians and the Germans, the austerity of his life, and the 
rigid impartiality of his justice, whilst he was Praefect of the 
city, commanded the esteem of a people whose affections 
were engaged in favor of the more amiable Balbinus. The 
two colleagues had both been consuls (Balbinus had twice 
enjoyed that honorable office), both had been named among 
the twenty lieutenants of the senate ; and since the one was 
sixty and the other seventy-four years old, 29 they had both 
obtained the full maturity of age and experience. 

After the senate had conferred on Maximus and Bal- 
binus an equal portion of the consular and tribunitian 
powers, the title of Fathers of their country, and the joint 

27 See the Augustan History, p. 166, from the registers of the senate ; the date 
is confessedly faulty, but the coincidence of the Apolliiuuian games enables us to 
correct it. 

*J He was descended from Cornelius Balbus, a noble Spaniard, and the adopted 
son of Theophanes, the Greek historian. Balbus obtained the freedom of Rome 
by the favor of Poinpey, and preserved it by the eloquence of Cicero. (See Oral. 
pro Cornel. Balbo.) The friendship of Caesar (to whom he rendered the most im- 
portant secret services in the civil war) laised him to the consulship and the pon- 
tificate, honors never yet posse.-sed by a stranger. The nephew of this Balbus 
triumphed over the Garamantes. See Dictionnaire de Bayle. a v. mot Balbus, 
where he distinguishes the several persons of that name, and rectifies, with his 
usual accuracy, the mistakes of former writers concerning them. 

'-•' Zonaras, 1. xii. p. 622. But li; tie dependence is to be had on the authority of 
a modern Greek, so grossly ignorant of the history of the third century, that he 
creates several imaginary emperors, and confounds those who really existed. 


office of Supreme Pontiff, they ascended to the Capitol to 
return thanks to the gods, protectors of Rome. 30 The 
solemn rites of sacrifice were disturbed by a sedition of the 
people. The licentious multitude neither loved the rigid 
Maxnnus, nor did they sufficiently fear the mild and humane 
Balbinus. Their increasing numbers surrounded the temple 
of Jupiter ; with obstinate clamors they asserted their in- 
herent right of consenting to the election of their sovereign ; 
and demanded, with an apparent moderation, that, besides 
the two emperors chosen by the senate, a third should be 
added of the family of the Gordians, as a just return of 
gratitude to those princes who had sacrificed their lives for 
the republic. At the head of the city guards and the youth 
of the equestrian order, Maximus and Balbinus attempted to 
cut their wav through the seditious multitude. The multi- 
tude, armed with sticks and stones, drove them back into 
the Capitol. It is prudent to yield when the contest, what- 
ever may be the issue of it, must be fatal to both parties. A 
boy, only thirteen years of age, the grandson of the elder, 
and nephew # of the younger, Gordian, was produced to the 
people, invested with the ornaments and title of Caesar. 
The tumult was appeased by this easy condescension; and 
the two emperors, as soon as they had been peaceably ac- 
knowledged in Rome, prepared to defend Italy against the 
common enemy. 

Whilst in Rome and Africa revolutions succeeded each 
other with such amazing rapidity, the mind of Max- 
imin was agitated by the most furious passions. He is 
said to have received the news of the rebellion of the Gor- 
dians, and of the decree of the senate against him, not 
with the temper of a man, but the rage of a wild beast ; 
which, as it could not discharge itself on the distant senate, 
threatened the life of his son, of his friends, and of all who 
ventured to approach his person. The grateful intelligence 
of the death of the Gordians was quickly followed by the 
assurance that the senate, laying aside all hopes of pardon or 
accommodation, had substituted in their room two emperors, 
with whose merit he could not be unacquainted. Revenge 
Was the only consolation left to Maximm, and revenge could 
only be obtained by arms. The strength of the legions had 

30 Herodian, 1. vii. p. 250, supposes that the senate was at first convoked in the 
Capitol, and is very eloquent on the occasion. The Augustan History, p. 116, 
seems much more authentic. 

* According to some, the son. — G. 


been assembled by Alexander from all parts of the empire. 
Three successful campaigns against the Germans and the 
Sarmatians had raised their fame, confirmed their discipline, 
and even increased their numbers by filling the ranks with 
the flower of the barbarian youth. The life of Maximin 
had been spent in war, and the candid severity of history 
cannot refuse him the valor of a soldier, or even the abilities 
of an experienced general. 31 It might naturally be expected 
that a prince of such a character, instead of suffering the 
rebellion to gain stability by delay, should immediately have 
marched from the banks of the Danube to those of the 
Tiber, and that his victorious army, instigated by contempt 
for the senate, and eager to gather the spoils of Italy, 
should have burned with impatience to finish the easy and 
lucrative conquest. Yet as far as we can trust to the 
obscure chronology of that period, 32 it appears that the 
operations of some foreign war deferred the Italian expedi- 
tion till the ensuing spring. From the prudent conduct 
of Maximin, we may learn that the savage features of his 

31 In Herodian, 1. vii. p. 240, and in the Augustan History, we have throe sev- 
eral orations of Maximin to his army, oa the rebellion of Africa and Koine : M. 
de Tillemont lias very justly observed that they neither agree with each other nor 
with tru.h. Histoire des Empereuis, torn. iii. p. 799. 

-- The carelessness of the writers of that age leaves us in a singular perplex- 
ity. 1. We know that Maximus and Balbinus were killed during the Capitoline 
gimes. Herodian. 1. viii. p. 285. The authority of Censorinus (de Lie Katali, c. 
18) enables us to fix those games with certainty to the year 238, but Laves us in 
ignorance of the month or day. 2. The election of Gordian by the senate is fixed 
with equal certainty to the 27th of May ; but we are at a loss to dis( over whether 
it was in the same or the preceding year. Tillemont and Muratori, who maintain 
the two opposite opinions, bring into the held a desultory troop of authorities, 
conjectures, and probabilities. The one seems to draw out, the other to eoi tract, 
the series of events between these periods, more than can be well reconciled to 
reason and history. Yet it is necessary to choose between them.* 

* Eckhel has more recently treated these chronological questions with a per- 
spicuity which gives great probability to his conclusions. Setiii g aside all the 
historians who. e contradictions are irreconcilable, he has onl , cjnsulttu the 
medals, a id has arranged tlu events before us in the following order : — 

Maximin, A. U. 900, after having conquered the Germans, reenters Pannonia, 
establishes his winter quarter... at Sirmium, and prepares himself to make war 
against the people of the North. In the year 901, in the < alends of January, com- 
mences his fourth tribunate. Th j G' are chosen emperors in Africa, prob- 
abl / at the beginning of the month of March. The senate confirms this election 
with joy, and declares Maximin the enemy of Koine. Five days after he had 
heard of this revolt, Maximin sets o it from Sirmium on his march to Italy. These 
events took place about the beginning of April ; a little after, the Gordians are 
slain in Africa by Capellianus, procurator of Mauritania. The senate, in its 
alarm, names as emperors Balbus and Maximus Pupianus, and intrusts the latter 
with the war against Maximin. Maximin is stopped on his road near Aquileia, 
by the want of provisions, and by the melting of the snows : li3 begins the siege 
of Aquileia at the end of April. Pupianus assembles hi', army at Kavenna. 
Maximin and his sou are assassinated I y the soldiers enruged r.t the resistance of 
Aquileia; and this was probably in the middle of May. Pupianus returns to 
Rome, and assumes the government with Balbinus ; they are assas-inated to- 
wards the end of July. Gordian the younger ascends the throne. Eckhel de 
Don Num. Yet. vii. 295.— G. . . 


character have been exaggerated by the pencil of party, that 
his passions, however impetuous, submitted to the force of 
reason, and that the barbarian possessed something of the 
generous spirit of Sylla, who subdued the enemies of Rome 
before he suffered himself to revenge his private injuries. 33 
When the troops of Maximin, advancing in excellent 
order, arrived at the foot of the Julian Alps, they were ter- 
rified by the silence and desolation that reigned on the 
frontiers of Italy. The villages and open towns had been 
abandoned on their approach by the inhabitants, the cattle 
was driven away, the provisions removed or destroyed, the 
bridges broken down, nor was anything left which could 
afford either shelter or subsistence to an invader. Such had 
been the wise orders of the generals of the senate, whoso 
design was to protract the war, to ruin the army of Max- 
imin by the slow operation of famine, and to consume his 
strength in the sieges of the principal cities of Italy, which 
they had plentifully stored with men and provisions from 
the deserted country. Aquileia received and withstood the 
first shock of the invasion. The streams that issue from 
the head of the Hadriatic Gulf, swelled by the melting of 
the winter snows, 34 opposed an unexpected obstacle to the 
arms of Maximin. At length, on a singular bridge, con- 
structed with art and difficulty, of large hogsheads, he trans- 
ported his army to the opposite bank, rooted up the beauti- 
ful vineyards in the neighborhood of Aquileia, demolished 
the suburbs, and employed the timber of the buildings in 
the engines and towers with which on every side he attacked 
the city. The walls, fallen to decay during the security of 
a long peace, had been hastily repaired on this sudden 
emergency: but the firmest defence of Aquileia consisted 
in the constancy of the citizens ; all ranks of whom, instead 
of being dismayed, w r ere animated by the extreme danger, 
and their knowledge of the tyrant's unrelenting temper. 
Their courage was supported and directed by Crispinus and 

33 Velleius Paterculus, 1. ii. c. 24. The president de Montesquieu (in his dia- 
logue between Sylla and Euerates) expresses the sentiments of the dictator in 
aspiriied. and even a sublime manner. 

'** Muratori (Annali d' Italia, toin. ii. p. 294) thinks the melting of the snows 
siits better with the months of June or July, than with that of February. The 
opinion of amaa who passed his life between the Alps and the Apennines, is un- 
doubtedly of great weight ; yet I observe, 1. That the long winter, of which 
Muratori takes advantage, is 10 be fo md only in the Latin version, and not in the 
Greek text of llerodian. 2. That the vicissitudes of suns and rains, to which the 
soldiers of Maximin were exposed (Herodian. 1. viii. p. 277), denote the spring 
rather than the summer. We may observe, likewise, that these several streams, 
as they melted into one. composed the Timavus, so poetically (in every sense of 
the word^ described by Virgil. They are about twelve miles to the east of Aqui- 
leia. See Cluver. Italia Antiqua, torn. i. p. 189, &c 


Menophilus, two of the twenty lieutenants of the senate, 
who, with a small body of regular troops, had thrown them- 
selves into the besieged place. The army of Maximin was 
repulsed in repeated attacks, his machines destroyed by 
showers of artificial fire ; and the generous enthusiasm of 
the Aquileians was exalted into a confidence of success by 
the opinion that Belenus, their tutelar deity, combated in 
person in the defence of his distressed worshippers. 35 

The emperor Maximus, who had advanced as far as Ra- 
venna to secure that important place and to hasten the mil- 
itary preparations, beheld the event of the war in the more 
faithful mirror of reason and policy. Pie was too sensible 
that a single town could not resist the persevering efforts of 
a great army ; and he dreaded lest the enemy, tired with 
the obstinate resistance of Aquileia, should on a sudden re- 
linquish the fruitless siege and march directly towards 
Rome. The fate of the empire and the cause of freedom 
must then be committed to the chance of a battle ; and 
what arms could he oppose to the veteran legions of the 
Rhine and Danube? Some troops newly levied among the 
generous but enervated youth of Italy, and a body of Ger- 
man auxiliaries, on whose firmness, in the hour of trial, it 
was dangerous to depend. In the midst of these just 
alarms, the stroke of domestic conspiracy punished the 
crimes of Maximin and delivered Rome and the senate 
from the calamities that would surely have attended the 
victory of an enraged barbarian. 

The people of Aquileia had scarcely experienced any of 
the common miseries of a siege ; their magazines were plen- 
tifully supplied, and several fountains within the walls 
assured them of an inexhaustible resource of fresh water. 
The soldiers of Maximin were, on the contrary, exposed to 
the inclemency of the season, the contagion of disease, and 
the horrors of famine. The open country was ruined, the 
rivers filled with the slain and polluted with blood. A 
spirit of despair and disaffection began to diffuse itself 
among the troops ; and as they were cut off from all intel- 
ligence, they easily believed that the whole empire had em- 
braced the cause of the senate, and that they were left as 
devoted victims to perish under the impregnable walls of 

35 Herodian, 1. viii. p. 272. The Celtic deity was supposed to be Apollo, and re r 
ceived under that name the thanks of the senate. A temple was likewise built 
to Venus the Bald, in honor of the women of Aquileia, who had given up their 
hair to make ropes for the military- engines. 


Aquileia. The fierce temper of the tyrant was exasperated by 
disappointments, which he imputed to the cowardice of his 
army; and his wanton and ill-timed cruelty, instead of striking 
terror, inspired hatred and a justdesire of revenge. A party 
of Praetorian guards, who trembled for their wives and chil- 
dren in the camp of Alba, near Rome, executed the sentence 
of the senate. Maximin, abandoned by his guards, was 
slain in his tent, with his son (whom he had associated to 
the honors of the purple), Anulinus the prsefect, and the 
principal ministers of his tyranny. 36 The sight of their 
heads, borne on the point of spears, convinced the citizens 
of Aquileia that the siege was at an end ; the gates of the 
city were thrown open, a liberal market was provided for 
the hungry troops of Maximin, and the whole army joined 
in solemn protestations of fidelity to the senate and the peo- 
ple of Rome, and to their lawful emperors Maximus and 
Balbinus. Such was the deserved fate of a brutal savage, 
destitute, as he has generally been represented, of every 
sentiment that distinguishes a civilized, or even a human 
being. The body was suited to the soul. The stature of 
Maximin exceeded the measure of eight feet, and circum- 
stances almost incredible are related of his matchless 
strength and appetite. 37 Had he lived in a less enlightened 
age, tradition and poetry might well have described him as 
one of those monstrous giants, whose supernatural power 
was constantly exerted for the destruction of mankind. 

It is easier to conceive than to describe the universal joy 
of the Roman world on the fall of the tyrant, the news of 
which is said to have been carried in four days from Aquileia 
to Rome. The return of Maximus was a triumphal proces- 
sion ; his colleague ajid young Gordian went out to meet 
him, and the three princes made their entry into the capital, 
attended by the ambassadors of almost all the cities of Italy, 
saluted with the splendid offerings of gratitude and super- 
stition, and received with the unfeigned acclamations of the 
senate and people, who persuaded themselves that a golden 

30 Herodian, 1. viii. p. 279. Hist. August, p. 116. The duration of Maximin \s 
reign has not been defined with much accuracy, except by Eutropius, who allows 
him three years and a few days (1. ix. 1) ; we may depend on the integrity of the 
text, as the Latin original is checked by the Greek version of Pjeanius. 

37 Eight Roman feet and one third, which are equal to above eight English feet, 
as the two measures are toeachoUvnin the proportion of 9<;7to 1000. See Graves's 
discourse on the Roman foot. We are told that Maximin could drink in a day an 
amphora (or about seven gallons) of wine, and eat thirty or forty pounds of meat. 
He could move a loaded wagon, break a horse's leg with his fist, crumble stones 
in his hand, and tear up small trees by the roots. See his life in the Augustan 



aire would succeed to an ao'e of iron. 38 The conduct of the 


two emperors corresponded with these expectations. They 
administered justice in person; and the rigor of the one was 
tempered by the other's clemency. The oppressive taxes 
with which Maximin had loaded the rights of inheritance 
and succession were repealed, or at least moderated. Dis- 
cipline Avas revived, and with the advice of the senate many 
wise laws were enacted by their Imperial ministers, who 
endeavored to restore a civil constitution on the ruins of 
military tyranny. " What reward may we expect for deliv- 
ering Rome from a monster?" was the question asked by 
Maxim us, in a moment of freedom and confidence. Bal- 
binus answered it without hesitation — " The love of the 
senate, of the people, and of all mankind." "Alas ! " re- 
plied his more penetrating colleague — " alas ! I dread the 
hatred of the soldiers and the fatal effects of their resent- 
ment." 39 His apprehensions were but too well justified by 
the event. 

Whilst Maxim us was preparing to defend Italy against 
the common foe, Balbinus, who remained at Rome, had 
been engaged in scenes of blood and intestine discord. Dis- 
trust and jealousy reigned in the senate ; and even in the 
temples where they assembled every senator carried either 
open or concealed arms. In the midst of their delibera- 
tions, two veterans of the guards, actuated either by curi- 
osity or a sinister motive, audaciously thrust themselves into 
the house, and advanced by degrees beyond the altar of Vic- 
tory. Gallicanus, a consular, and Maecenas, a Praetorian 
senator, viewed with indignation their insolent intrusion ; 
drawing their daggers, they laid the spies (for such they 
deemed them) dead at the foot of the altar, and then, ad- 
vancing to the door of the senate, imprudently exhorted the 
multitude to massacre the Praetorians as the secret adhe- 
rents of the tyrant. Those who escaped the first fury of the 
tumult took refuge in the camp, which they defended with 
superior advantage against the reiterated attacks of the peo- 
ple, assisted by the numerous bands of gladiators, the prop- 
erty of opulent nobles. The civil war lasted many days, 
with infinite loss and confusion on both sides. When the 
pipes were broken that supplied the camp with water, the 
Praetorians were reduced to intolerable distress ; but in their 

88 See the congratulatory letter of Claifclius Juliaiius, the consul, to the two 
emperoi-s, in the Augustan History. 
■* Hist. August, p. 171. 


turn they made desperate sallies into the city, set lire to a 
great number of houses, and filled the streets with the blood 
of the inhabitants. The emperor Balbinus attempted, by 
ineffectual edicts and precarious truces, to reconcile the fac- 
tions at Rome. But their animosity, though smothered for 
a while, burnt with redoubled violence. The soldiers, de- 
testing the senate and the people, despised the weakness of 
a prince who wanted either the spirit or the power to com- 
mand the obedience of his subjects. 40 

After the tyrant's death, his formidable army had ac- 
knowledged, from necessity rather than from choice, the 
authority of Maximus, who transported himself without de- 
lay to the camp before Aquileia. As soon as he had received 
their oath of fidelitv, he addressed them in terms full of 

ml I 

mildness and moderation ; lamented, rather than arraigned, 
the wild disorder of the times, and assured the soldiers, 
that of all their past conduct the senate would remember 
only their generous desertion of the tyrant and their vol- 
untary return to their duty. Maximus enforced his exhor- 
tations by a liberal donative, purified the camp by a solemn 
sacrifice of expiation, and then dismissed the legions to their 
several provinces, impressed, as he hoped, with a lively 
sense of gratitude and obedience. 41 But nothing could 
reconcile the haughty spirit of the Praetorians. They at- 
tended the emperors on the memorable day of their public 
entry into Rome ; but amidst the general acclamations, the 
sullen, dejeeted countenance of the guards sufficiently de- 
clared that they considered themselves as the object, rather 
than the partners, of the triumph. When the whole body 
was united in their camp, those who had served under 
Maximin, and those who had remained at Rome, insen- 
sibly communicated to each other their complaints and 
apprehensions. The emperors chosen by the army had per- 
ished with ignominy; those elected by the senate were 
seated on the throne. 42 The lorn* discord betAveen the civil 
and military powers was decided by a war, in which the 
former had obtained a complete victory. The soldiers must 
now learn a new doctrine of submission to the senate ; and 
whatever clemency was affected by that politic assembly, 
they dreaded a clow revenge, colored by the name of dis- 
cipline, and justified by fair pretences of the public good. 

<° Herodian, 1. viii. p. 258. 41 p. 213. 

42 The observation had been made imprudently enough in the acclamations of 
the senate, and with regard to the soldiers it carried the appearance of a wanton 
insult. Hist. August, p. 170. 


But their fate was still in their own hands ; and if they had 
courage to despise the vain terrors of an impotent republic, 
it was easy to convince the world that those who were 
masters of the arms were masters of the authority of the 

When the senate elected two princes, it is probable that, 
besides the declared reason of providing for the various 
emergencies of peace and war, they were actuated by the 
secret desire of weakening by division the despotism of the 
supreme magistrate. Their policy was effectual, but it 
proved fatal both to their emperors and to themselves. The 
jealousy of power was soon exasperated by the difference 
of character. Maximus despised Balbinus as a luxurious 
noble, and was in his turn disdained by his colleague as an 
obscure soldier. Their silent discord was understood rather 
than seen ; 43 but the mutual consciousness prevented them 
from uniting in any vigorous measures of defence against 
their common enemies of the Praetorian camp. The whole 
city was employed in the Capitoline games, and the emper- 
ors were left almost alone in the palace. On a sudden, 
they were alarmed by the approach af a troop of desperate 
assassins. Ignorant of each other's situation or designs (for 
they already occupied very distant apartments), afraid to 
give or to receive assistance, they w;»ted the important 
moments in idle debates and fruitless recriminations. The 
arrival of the guards put an end to the vain strife. They 
seized on these emperors of the senate, for such they called 
them with malicious contempt, stripped them of their gar- 
ments, and dragged them in insolent triumph through the 
streets of Rome, with the design of inflicting a slow and 
cruel death on these unfortunate princes. The fear of a 
rescue from the faithful Germans of the Imperial guards 
shortened their tortures ; and their bodies, mangled with a 
thousand wounds, were left exposed to the insults or to the 
pity of the populace. 44 

In the space of a few months six princes had been cut 
off by the sword. Gordian, who had already received the 
title of Caesar, was the only person that occurred to the 
soldiers as proper to fill the vacant throne. 45 They carried 
him to the camp, and unanimously painted him Augustus 

43 Discordise tacitoe, et quae intslligerentur potius qua n viuersntur. Hist. 
Auffust. p. 170. This well-chosen expression is probably stolen from some bettor 

41 Herodian, 1. viii. pp. 287. 288. 

45 Quia non alius erat in praasenti, is the expression of the Augustan History. 


and Emperor. His name was dear to the senate and peo- 
ple; his tender age promised a long impunity of military 
license; and the submission of Rome and the provinces to 
the choice of the Praetorian guards saved the republic, at 
the expense indeed of its freedom and dignity, from the 
horrors of a new civil war in the heart of the capital. 46 

As the third Gordian was only nineteen years of age at 
the time of his death, the history of his life, were it known 
to us with greater accuracy than it really is, would contain 
little more than the account of his education, and the con- 
duct of the ministers, who by turns abused or guided the 
simplicity of his unexperienced youth. Immediately after 
his accession he fell into the hands of his mother's eunuchs, 
that pernicious vermin of the East, who, since the days of 
Elagabalus, had infested the Roman palace. By the artful 
conspiracy of these wretches, an impenetrable veil was 
drawn between an innocent prince and his oppressed sub- 
jects, the virtuous disposition of Gordian was deceived, 
and the honors of the empire sold without his knowledge, 
though in a very public manner, to the most worthless of 
mankind. We are ignorant by what fortunate accident the 
emperor escaped from this ignominious slavery, and de- 
volved his confidence on a minister whose wise counsels 
had no object except the glory of his sovereign and the 
happiness of the |)eople. It should seem that love and 

46 Quintus Curtius (1. x. c. 9), pays an elegant compliment to the emperor of the 
day, for having, by his happy accession, extinguished so many ILrebrands, sheathed 
so many swords, and put an end to the evils of a divided government. After 
weighing with attention every word of the passage, L am of opinion, that it suits 
better with the elevation of Goidian, than with any other period of the Roman 
history. In that case, it may serve to decide the age of Quintus Curtius. These 
who place him under the lirat Caesars argue from the purity of his style, but are 
embarrassed by the silence of Quintilian, in his accurate' list of Roman histo- 

* This conjecture of Gibbon is without foundation. Many passages in the work 
of Quintus Curtius clearly place him at an earlier period. Thus, in speaking of 
the Parthians, he says, Mine in Parthicum perventum est ; tunc ignobilcm 
gentein : nunc caput omnium qui post Euphratem et Tigrim amnes siti Rubro 
mari terminantur. The Parthian empire had this extent only in the lirst age of 
the vulgar sera ; to that age, therefore, must be assigned the date of Quintus Cur- 
tius. Although the critics (.-ays M. de Sainte Croix) have multiplied conjectures 
on this subject, most of them have ended by adopting the opinion which places 
Quintus Curtihs under the reign of Claudius. See Just. Lips, ad Ann. Tac. ii.20. 
Michel le Tellier Proef. in Curt. Tillemont Hist, des Emp. i. p. 251. Du Bos 
Reflections sur la Poesie, 2d Tartie. Tiraboschi Storia della. Lett. Ital. ii. 149. 
Exanien. crit. des Hi^toriens d' Alexandre, 2d ed. pp. 10', 849, £50.— G. 

This interminable question seems as much perplexed as evor. The first argu- 
ment of M. Guizot is a strong one. except that Tarthian is often used by later 
writers for Persian. Cunzius, in his preface to an edition published at Helm- 
fladt (1802), maintains the oi.inion of Bagnolo. which nssigns Q. Curtius to the 
time of Constantine the Great. Schmieder, in his edit. Gotting. 1803, sums up in 
this sentence, a3tatem Curtii ignorart palam est.— M. 


learning introduced Misitheus to the favor of Gordian. The 

• • • 

young prince married the daughter of his master of rhetoric, 
and promoted his father-in-law to the first offices of the em- 
pire. Two admirable letters that passed between them are 
still extant. The minister, with the conscious dignity of 
virtue, congratulates Gordian that he is delivered from the 
tyranny of the eunuchs, 47 and still more that he is sensible 
of his deliverance. The emperor acknowledges, with an 
amiable confusion, the errors of his past conduct ; and la- 
ments, with singular propriety, the misfortune of a mon- 
arch from whom a venal tribe of courtiers perpetually labor 
to conceal the truth. 48 

The life of Misitheus had been spent in the profession of 
letters, not of arms, yet such was the versatile genius of 
that great man, that when he was appointed Praetorian 
Praefect, he discharged the military duties of his place with 
vigor and ability. The Persians had invaded Mesopotamia, 
and threatened Antioch. By the persuasion of his father- 
in-law, the young emperor quitted the luxury of Rome, 
opened, for the last time recorded in history, the temple of 
Janus, and marched in person into the East. On his ap- 
proach with a great army, the Persians withdrew their gar- 
risons from the cities which they had already taken, and re- 
tired from the Euphrates to the Tigris. Gordian enjoyed 
the pleasure of announcing to the senate the first success of 
his arms, which he ascribed, with a becoming modesty and 
gratitude, to the wisdom of his father and Prasfect. Dur- 
ing the whole expedition, Misitheus watched over the safety 
and discipline of the army ; whilst he prevented their dan- 
gerous murmurs by maintaining a regular plenty in the 
camp, and by establishing ample magazines of vinegar, 
bacon, straw, barley, and wheat, in all the cities of the 
frontier. 49 But the prosperity of Gordian expired with 
Misitheus, who died of a flux, not without very strong sus- 
picions of poison. Philip, his successor in the prefecture, 
was an Arab by birth, and consequently, in the earlier part 

*" Hist. August, p. 161. From some hints in the two letters, I should expeet 
that the eunuchs were not expelled the palace without some degree of gentle vio- 
lence and that the young Gordian rather approved of, than consented to, their 

* j Duxit uxorem liliam Misithei, quern caufa eloquentia; uignumparen tela sua 
putavit ; et praefectum stalim fecit ; post quod, non puerile jam etcontemptibile 
videbatur imperium. 

4 Hist. August, p. 162. Aurelius Victor. Porphyrins in Vit. Plotin. ap. Fabri- 
cium, Biblioth, Grasc. ]. iv. c. 36. The philosopher Plotinua accompanied the 
army, prompted by the love of knowledge, and by the hope of penetrating as far 
as India. 


of his life, a robber by profession. His rise from so ob- 
scure a station to the first dignities of the empire seems to 
prove that he was a bold and able leader. But his boldness 
prompted him to aspire to the throne, and his abilities were 
employed to supplant, not to serve, his indulgent master. 
The minds of the soldiers were irritated by an artificial 
scarcity, created by his contrivance in the camp, and the 
distress of the army was attributed to the youth and inca- 
pacity of the prince. It is not in our power to trace the 
successive steps of the secret conspiracy and open sedition, 
which were at length fatal to Gordian. A sepulchral monu- 
ment was erected to his memory on the spot 50 where he was 
killed, near the conflux of the Euphrates with the little 
river Aboras. 51 The fortunate Philip, raised to the empire 
by the votes of the soldiers, found a ready obedience from 
the senate and the provinces. 52 

We cannot forbear transcribing the ingenious, though 
somewhat fanciful description, which a celebrated writer of 
our own times has traced of the military government of the 
Roman empire. " What in that age was called the Roman 
empire was only an irregular republic, not unlike the aris- 
tocracy 63 of Algiers, 64 where the militia, possessed of the 
sovereignty, creates and deposes a magistrate, who is styled 
a Dey. Perhaps, indeed, it may be laid down as a general 
rule, that a military government is, in some respects, more 
republican than monarchical. Nor can it be said that the 

50 About twenty mile.s from the little town of Circesium, on the frontier of the 
two empires.* 

51 The inscription (which contained a very singular pun) was erased by the 
order of Licinius, who claimed some degree of relationship to Philip (Hist. Au- 
gust, p. 165) ; but the tumulus, or mound o£ earth which formed the sepulchre, 
still subsisted in the time of Julian. See Ammian Marcellin. xxiii. 5. 

63 Aurelius Victor. Eutrop. ix. 2. Orosius, vii. 20. Ammianus Marcellinus, 
xxiii. 5. Zosimus, 1. i.p. 19. Philip, who was a native of Bostra, was about forty 
years of age. \ 

M Can the epithet of Aristocracy be applied, with any propriety, to the govern- 
ment of Algiers? Every military government floats between two extremes of 
absolute monarchy and wild democracy. 

54 The military republic of the Mamelukes in Egypt would have afforded M. 
de Montesquieu (see Considerations sur la Grandeur et la Decadence des Roinains, 
c. 16) a juster and more noble parallel. 

* Now Kerkesia ; placed in the angle formed by the juncture of the Chaboras, 
or al Khabour, with the Euphrates. This situation appeared so advantageous to 
Diocletian, that he raised fortifications to make it the bulwark of the "empire on 
the side of Mesopotamia. D'Anville, Geog. Anc. ii. 19C— G. Itisthe Carchemish 
of the Old Testament, 2 Chron. xxxv. 20. Jer. xlvi. 2.— M. 

t Now Bosra. It was once the meti'opolis of a province named Arabia, and 
the chief city of Auranitis, of which the name is preserved in Beled Hauran, the 
limits of which meet the desert. D'Anville, Geog. Anc. ii. 188. According to- 
Victor (in Csesar), Philip was a native of Trachonitis, another province of Arabia. 
— G. 


soldiers only partook of the government by their disobedi- 
ence and rebellions. The speeches made to them by the 
emperors, were they not at length of the same nature as 
those formerly pronounced to the people by the consuls and 
the tribunes ? And although the armies had no regular place 
or forms of assembly ; though their debates were short, their 
action sudden, and their resolves seldom the result of cool 
reflection, did they not dispose, with absolute sway, of the 
public fortune? What was the emperor, except the minis- 
ter of a violent government, elected for the private benefit 
of the soldiers ? 

" When the army had elected Philip, who was Prae- 
torian praefect to the third Gordian, the latter demanded that 
he might remain sole emperor ; he was unable to obtain it. 
He requested that the power might be equally divided be- 
tween them ; the army would not listen to his speech. He 
consented to be degraded to the rank of Caesar ; the favor 
was refused him. He desired, at least, he might be ap- 
pointed Praetorian praefect ; his prayer was rejected. 
Finally, he pleaded for his life. The army, in these several 
judgments, exercised the supreme magistracy." According 
to the historian, whose doubtful narrative the President De 
Montesquieu has adopted, Philip, who, during the whole 
transaction, had preserved a sullen silence, was inclined to 
spare the innocent life of his benefactor ; till, recollecting 
that his innocence might excite a dangerous compassion in the 
Roman world, he commanded, without regard to his sup- 
pliant cries, that he should be seized, stripped, and led away 
to instant death. After a moment's pause the inhuman 
sentence was executed. 55 

On his return from the East to Rome, Philip, desirous 
of obliterating the memory of his crimes, and of captiva- 
ting the affections of the people, solemnized the secular 
games with infinite pomp and magnificence. Since their 

55 The Augustan History (pp. 163, 164) cannot, in this instance, be reconciled 
■with itself or with probability. How could Philip condemn his predecessor, and 
yet consecrate his memory V How could he order his public execution, and yet, 
in his letters to the senate, exculpate himself from the guilt of his death? Philip, 
though an ambitions usurper, was by no means a mad tyrant. Some chrono- 
logical difficulties have likewise been discovered by the nice eyes of Tillemont 
and Muratori in this supposed association of Philip to the empire.* 

* Wenck endeavors to reconcile these discrepancies. He supposes that Gor- 
dian was led away, and died a natural death in prison. This is directly contrary 
to the statement of Capitolinus and of Zosimus, whom he adduces in support of 
his theory. He is more successful in his precedents of usurpers deifying the vic- 
tims of their ambition. Sit divus, dummodo non sit vivus.— M. 


institution or revival by Augustus, 50 they had been cele- 
brated by Claudius, by Domitian, and by Severus, and were 
now renewed the fifth time, on the accomplishment of the 
full period of a thousand years from the foundation of 
Rome. Every circumstance of the secular games was skil- 
fully adapted to inspire the superstitious mind with deep 
and solemn reverence. The long interval between them 57 
exceeded the term of human life ; and as none of the spec- 
tators had already seen them, none could flatter themselves 
with the expectation of beholding them a second time. 
The mystic sacrifices were performed, during three nights, 
on the banks of the Tiber ; and the Campus Martius re- 
sounded with music and dances, and was illuminated with 
innumerable lamps and torches. Slaves and strangers were 
excluded from any participation in these national ceremo- 
nies. A chorus of twenty-seven youths, and as many virgins, 
of noble families, and whose parents were both alive, implored 
the propitious gods in favor of the present, and for the hope 
of the rising generation ; requesting, in religious hymns, 
that according to the faith of their ancient oracles, they 
would still maintain the virtue, the felicity, and the empire 
of the Roman people. 58 The magnificence of Philip's shows 
and entertainments dazzled the eyes of the multitude. The 
devout were employed in the rites of superstition, whilst 
the reflecting few revolved in their anxious minds the past 
history and the future fate of the empire. 

Since Romulus, with a small band of shepherds and 
outlaws, fortified himself on the hills near the Tiber, ten 
centuries had already elapsed. 59 During the four first ages, 
the Romans, in the laborious school of poverty, had acquired 
the virtues of war and government : by the vigorous exer- 
tion of those virtues, and by the assistance of fortune, they 
had obtained, in the course of the three succeeding centuries, 

56 The account of the last supposed celebration, though in an enlightened pe- 
riod of history, was so very doubtful and obscure, that the alternative seems not 
doubtful. When the popish jubilees, the copy of the secular games, were invented 
by Boniface VIII., the crafty pope pretended that he only revived an ancient 
institution. See M. le Chais, Lettres sur lea Jubiles„ 

& * Either of a hundred or a hundred and ten years. Varro and Livy adopted 
the former opinion, but the infallible authority of the Sybil consecrated the lat- 
ter (Censorinus de Die Natal, c. 17). The emperors Claudius and Philip, how- 
ever, did not treat the oracle with implicit respect. 

68 The idea of the secular games is best understood from the poem of Horace, 
and the description of Zosimus, 1. ii. p. 167, &c. 

69 The received calculation of Varro assigns to the foundation of Rome an sera 
that corresponds with the 754th year before Christ. But so little is the chronol- 
ogy of Rome to be depended on, in the more early ages, that Sir Isaac Newton 
has brought the same event as low as the year C27. [Compare Niebuhr, vol. i. p. 
271.— M.] 


an absolute empire over many countries of Europe, Asia, 
and Africa. The last three hundred years had been con- 
sumed in apparent prosperity and internal decline. The na- 
tion of soldiers, magistrates, and legislators, who composed 
the thirty-five tribes of the Roman people, was dissolved 
into the common mass of mankind, and confounded with 
the millions of servile provincials, who had received the 
name, without adopting the spirit, of Romans, A merce- 
nary army, levied among the subjects and barbarians of the 
frontier, was the only order of men who preserved and 
abused their independence. By their tumultuary election, 
a Syrian, a Goth, or an Arab, was exalted to the throne of 
Rome, and invested with despotic power over the conquests 
and over the country of the Scipios. 

The limits of the Roman empire still extended from the 
Western Ocean to the Tigris, and from Mount Atlas to the 
Rhine and the Danube. To the undiscerning eye of the vulgar, 
Philip appeared a monarch no less powerful than Hadrian 
or Augustus had formerly been. The form was still the 
same, but the animating health and vigor were fled. The 
industry of the people was discouraged and exhausted by 
a long series of oppression. The discipline of the legions, 
which alone, after the extinction of every other virtue, had 
propped the greatness of the state, was corrupted by the 
ambition, or relaxed by the weakness, of the emperors. The 
strength of the frontiers, which had always consisted in 
arms rather than in fortifications, was insensibly under- 
mined ; and the fairest provinces were left exposed to the 
rapaciousness or ambition of the barbarians, who soon dis- 
covered the decline of the Roman empire. 




Whenever Tacitus indulges himself in those beautiful 
episodes in which he relates some domestic transaction of 
the Germans or of the Parthians, his principal object is to 
relieve the attention of the reader from the uniform scene of 
vice and misery. From the reign of Augustus to the time 
of Alexander Severus, the enemies of Home were in her 
bosom — the tyrants and the soldiers ; and her prosperity had 
a very distant and feeble interest in the revolutions that might 
happen beyond the Rhine and the Euphrates. But when the 
military order had levelled, in wild anarchy, the power of 
the prince, the laws of the senate, and even the discipline 
of the camp, the barbarians of the North and of the East, who 
had long hovered on the frontier, boldly attacked the prov- 
inces of a declining monarchy. Their vexatious inroads 
were changed into formidable irruptions, and, after a long 
vicissitude of mutual calamities, many tribes of the vic- 
torious invaders established themselves in the provinces of 
the Roman empire. To obtain a clearer knowledge of these 
great events, we shall endeavor to form a previous idea of 
the character, forces, and designs of those nations who 
avenged the cause of Hannibal and Mithridates. 

In the more early ages of the world, whilst the forest 
that covered Europe afforded a retreat to a few wandering 
savages, the inhabitants of Asia were already collected into 
populous cities, and reduced under extensive empires the 
seat of the arts, of luxury, and of despotism. The Assyr- 
ians reigned over the East, 1 till the sceptre of Ninus and 
Semiramis dropped from the hands of their enervated suc- 

1 An ancient chronologist, quoted by Yelleius Paterculus (1. i. c. C), observes, 
that the Assyrians, the Medes, the Persians, and the Macedonians, reigned over 
Asia one thousand nine hundred and ninety-live years, from the accession of 
Ninus to the defeat of Antiochus by the Romans. As the latter of tbese great 
events happened 289 years before Christ, the former may be placed 21*4 years be- 
fore the same ?era. The Astronomical Observations, found at Babylon by Alex- 
ander, went fifty years higher. 


cessors. The Mecles and the Babylonians divided their 
power, and were themselves swallowed up in the monarchy 
of the Persians, whose arms could not be confined within 
the narrow limits of Asia. Followed, as it is said, by two 
millions of men, Xerxes, the descendant of Cyrus, invaded 
Greece. Thirty thousand soldiers under the command 
of Alexander, the son of Philip, who was intrusted by 
the Greeks with their glory and revenge, were sufficient 
to subdue Persia. The princes of the house of Seleucus 
usurped and lost the Macedonian command over the East. 
About the same time that, by an ignominious treaty, they 
resigned to the Romans the country on this side Mount 
Taurus, they were driven by the Parthians,* an obscure horde 
of Scythian origin, from all the provinces of Upper Asia. 
The formidable power of the Parthians, which spread from 
India to the frontiers of Syria, was in its turn subverted by 
Ardshir, or Artaxerxes ; the founder of a new dynasty, 
which, under the name of Sassanides, governed Persia till 
the invasion of the Arabs. This great revolution, whose 
fatal influence was soon experienced by the Romans, hap- 
pened in the fourth year of Alexander Severus, two hundred 
and twenty-six years after the Christian rera.' 2 f 

Artaxerxes had served with great reputation in the 
armies of Artaban, the last king of the Parthians, and it 
appears that he was driven into exile and rebellion by royal 

2 In the five hundred and thirty-eighth year of the ?era of Seleucus. See 
Agathias, 1. ii. p. 63. This great event (such is- the carelessness of the Orientals) 
is i laced by Eutychius as high as the tenth year of Commodus, and by Moses of 
(Jhorene as low as the reign of Philip. Ammianus Marcellinus h;is so servilely 
copied (xxiii. 6) his ancient materials, which are indeed very good, that he de- 
sc;ibes the family of the Arsacides as still seated on the Persian throne in the 
middle of the fourth century. 

* The Parthians were a tribe of the Indo-Germanic branch which dwelt on the 
south-east of the Caspian, and belonged to the same race as the Getse, the Mas- 
!>ageta?, and other nations, confounded by the ancients under the vague denom- 
ination of Scythians. Klaproth, Tableaux Hist, de l'Asie, p. 40. Strabo (p. 747) 
calls the Parthians Carduchi, i. e., the inhabitants of Curdistan. — M. 

t The Persian History, if the poetry of the Shah Nameh, the Book of Kings, 
may deserve that name, mentions four dynasties from the earliest ages to the in- 
vasion of the Saracens. The Shah Nameh Avas composed with the view of per- 
petuating the remains of the original Persian records or traditions which had 
survived the Saracenic invasion. The task was undertaken by the poet Dukiki, 
and afterwards, under the patronage of Mahmood of Ghazni, completed by Fer- 
dusi. The first of these dvnasties is that of Kaiomors, as Sir W. Jones observes, 
the dark and fabulous period; the second, that of the Kaianian, the heroic and 
poetical, in which the learned have discovered some curious, and imagined some 
fanciful, analogies with the Jewish, the Greek, and the Roman accounts of the 
eastern world. See, on the Shah Nameh. Translation by Goerres, with Von 
Hammer's Review, Vienna Jahrbuch von Tit. 17, 75, 77. "Malcolm's Persia, Pvc. 
ed. i. 503. Macau's Preface to his Critical Fdition of the Shah Nameh. On the 
earlv Persian History, a very sensible abstract of various opinions in Malcolm's 
Hist, of Persia.— M. 


ingratitude, the customary reward for superior merit. His 
birth was obscure, and the obscurity equally gave room to 
the aspersions of his enemies, and the flattery of his adhe- 
rents. If w r e credit the scandal of the former, Artaxerxes 
sprang from the illegitimate commerce of a tanner's wife 
witli a common soldier. 3 The latter represent him as de- 
scended from a branch of the ancient kings of Persia, though 
time and misfortune had gradually reduced his ancestors to 
the humble station of private citizens. 4 As the lineal heir 
of the monarchy, he asserted his right to the throne, and 
challenged the noble task of deliverino; the Persians from 
the oppression under which they groaned above five cen- 
turies since the death of Darius. The Parthians were de- 
feated in three great battles.* In the last of these their 
king Artaban was slain, and the spirit of the nation Avas 
forever broken. 5 The authority of Artaxerxes was solemnly 
acknowledged at a great assembly held at Balch in Khora- 
san.f Two younger branches of the royal house of Arsaces 
were confounded among the prostrate satraps. A third, 
more mindful of ancient grandeur than of present neces- 
sity, attempted to retire, with a numerous train of vassals, 
towards their kinsman, the king of Armenia ; but this little 
army of deserters was intercepted, and cut off, by the 
vigilance of the conqueror, 6 who boldly assumed the double 
diadem, and the title of King of Kings, which had been en- 
joyed by his predecessor. But these pompous titles, instead 
of gratifying the vanity of the Persian, served only to ad- 
monish him of his duty, and to inflame in his soul the am- 
bition of restoring, in their full splendor, the religion and 
empire of Cyrus. 

I. During the long servitude of Persia under the Mace- 
donian and the Parthian yoke, the nations of Europe and 
Asia had mutually adopted and corrupted each other's 
superstitions. The Arsacides, indeed, practised the worship 
of the Magi ; but they disgraced and polluted it with a 

3 The tanner's name was Babec ; the soldier's, Sassan : from the former Ar- 
taxerxes obtained the surname of Babegan, from the latter all his descendants 
have been styled Sassan ides. 

^D'Herbelot. Bibliotheque Orientale, Arrfshir, 

5 Dion Cassius, 1. lxxx. Ilerodiun, 1. vi. p. 2UT. Abulpharagius Dynast, p. 80. 

6 See Moses Chorenensis, 1. ii. c. C5-71. 

* In the plain of Hoorrauz, the son of Babek was hailed in the field with the 
proud tile of Shnhan Shah, king of kings — a name ever since assumed by the 
sovereigns of Persia. Malcolm, i. 71. — M. 

t See the Persian account of the rise of Ardeschir Babegan, in Malcolm i. 69. 
— M. 


various mixture of foreign idolatry.* The memory of Zoro- 
aster, the ancient prophet and philosopher of the Persians, 7 
was still revered in the East ; hut the ohsolete and myste- 
rious language, in which the Zendavesta was composed 8 

1 Hyde and Prideaux, working up the Persian legends and their own conjec- 
tures into a very agreeable story, represent Zoroaster as a contemporary of Darius 
Hyst.ispes. But 11 is sufficient to observe, that ihe Greek writers, who lived al- 
most in the age of Darius, agree in plating the sera of Zoroaster many hundred, 
or even thousand, years before their own time. The judicious criticism of Mr. 
Moyle perceived, and maintained against his uncle Dr. Prideaux, the antiquity 
of the Persian prophet. See his work, vol. ii.t 

8 That ancient idiom was called the Zend. The language of the commentary, 
the Pehlvi, though much more modern, has ceased many ages ago to be a living 
tongue. This fact alone (if it is allowed as authentic) sufficiently warrants the 
antiquity of those writings which M. d'Anquetil has brought into Europe, and 
translated into French. J 

* Silvestre de Sacy (Antiquites de la Perse) has proved the neglect of the 
Zoroastrian religion under the Parthian kings. — M. 

t There are three leading theories concerning the age of Zoroaster : 1. That 
which assigns him to an age of great and almost indeiinite anti inity — it is that of 
Moyle, adopted by Gibbon, Volney, Recherches sur l'Histoirc, ii. 2. Rhode, also, 
(die Heilige Sage, &c.), in a very ingenious and ably-developed theory, throw:; the 
Bactrian prophet far back into antiquity. 2. Foucher (Mem. de I'Aead. xxvii. 
253), Tyehsen (in Com. Soc. Gott. ii. 112), Ileeren (Ideen. i. 459), and recently 
Holty, identify the Gnshtasp of the Persian mythological history with Cyaxares 
the First, the king of the Medes, and consider the religion to be Median in its 
origin. M. Guizot considers this opinion most probable, note in l>c. 3. Hyde, 
Prideaux, Anquctil du Perron, kleuker, Herder, Goerres (Mythen-Geschichte), 
Von Hammer (Wien. Jahrbuch, vol. ix.), Malcolm (i. 528), De Guigniaut (Lelig. 
de l'Anti p 2d part, vol. iii.), Rlaproth (Tableaux de l'Asie, p. 21), make Gnsh- 
tasp Darius Hystaspes, and Zoroaster his contemporary. The silence of Herodo- 
tus appears the great objection to this theory. Some writers, as M. Foucher 
(resting, as M. Guizot observes, on the doubtful authority of Pliny), make more 
than one Zoroaster, and so attempt to reconcile the conflicting theories. — M. 

J Zend signifies life, living. The word means, either the collection of the 
canonical books of the followers of Zoroaster, or the language itself in which 
they are written. They are the books that contain the word of life, whether the 
language was originally called Zend, or whether it was so called from the con- 
tents of the b oks. Avesta means word, oracle, revelation ; this term is not 
the title of a particular work, but of the collection of the books of Zorcaster, as 
the revelation of Ormuzd. This collection is sometimes called Zendavesta, some- 
times briefly Zend. 

The Zend was the ancient language of Media, as is proved by its affinity with 
the dialects of Armenia and Georgia ; it was already a dead language under the 
ArsacLlcs in the country which was the scene of the events recorded in the 
Zendavesta. Some critics, among others Richardson and Sir W. Jones, have 
called in question the antiquity of ihese books. The former pretended that the 
Zend had never been a written or spoken language, but had been invented in the 
later times by the Magi, for the purposes of their art ; but Kleuker, in the dis- 
sertations which he added to those of Anquetil and the Abbe Foucher, has proved 
that the Zend was a living and spoken language. — G. Sir W. Jones appears to 
have abandoned his doubts, on discovering the affinity between the Zend and the 
Sanskrit. Since the time of Kleuker, this question has been investigated by 
many learned scholars. Sir W. Jones, Leyden (Asiat. Research, x. 283), and Mr. 
Erskine (Bombay Trans ii. 299), consider it a derivative from the Sanskrit. The 
anti inity of the Zendavesta has likewise been asserted bv Rask. the great Danish 
linguist, who, according to Malcolm, brought back from the East fresh transcripts 
and additions to those published by Anquetil. According to Rask, the Zend and 
Sa'.iskri . arc siste - . - dialects; the one the parent of the Persian, the other of the 
Indian family of languages.— G. and M. But the subject is most satisfactorily 
illustrated in Bonp's comparative Grammar of the Sanskrit, Zend, Greek, Latin, 
Lithuanian, Gothic, and German languages. Berlin, 1833-5. According to Bopp, 
the Zend is, in some respects, of more remarkable structure than the Sanskrit. 
Parts of the Zendavesta have been published in the original, by M. Bournouf, at 
Paris, and M. Olshausen, in. Hamburg. — M. 

The Pehlvi was the language of the countries bordering on Assyria, and prob- 


opened a field of dispute to seventy sects, who variously ex- 
plained the fundamental doctrines of their religion, and 
were all indifferently derided by a crowd of infidels, who 
rejected the divine mission and miracles of the prophet. 
To suppress the idolators, reunite the schismatics, and con- 
fute the unbelievers, by the infallible decision of a general 
council, the pious Artaxerxes Summoned the Magi from all 
parts of his dominions. These jjriests, who had so long 
sighed in contempt and obscurity, obeyed the welcome sum- 
mons ; and on the appointed day appeared, to the number 
of about eighty thousand. But as the debates of so tumul- 
tuous an assembly could not have been directed by the 
authority of reason, or influenced by the art of policy, the 
Persian synod was reduced, by successive operations, to 
forty thousand, to four thousand, to four hundred, to forty, 
and at last to seven Magi, the most respected for their learn- 
ing and piety. One of these, Erdaviraph, a young but holy 
prelate, received from the hands of his brethren three cups 
of soporiferous wine. He drank them off, and instantly fell 
into a long and profound sleep. As soon as he waked, he 
related to the king and to the believing multitude his jour- 
ney to heaven, and his intimate conferences with the Deity. 
Every doubt was silenced by this supernatural evidence ; 
and the articles of the faith of Zoroaster were fixed with 
equal authority and precision. 9 A short delineation of that 
celebrated system will be found useful, not only to display 
the character of the Persian nation, but to illustrate many 
of their most important transactions, both in peace and war, 
with the Roman empire. 1 


9 Hyde de Religione veterum Pers. o. 21. 

w 1 have principally drawn this account from the Zendavesta of M. d'Anquetil, 
and the Sadder, subjoined to J)i\ Hyde's treatise. It must, however, be con- 
fessed, that the studied obscurity of a prophet, the figurative style of the East, 
and the deceitful medium of a French or Latin version, may have betrayed U3 
into error and heresy, in this abridgment of Persian Theology.* 

ably of Assyria itself. Pehlvi signifies valor, heroism; the Pehlvi, therefore, 
was the language of the ancient heroes and kings of Persia, the valiant. (Mr. 
Erskine prefers the derivation from Pehla, a border. — M. It contains a number 
of Aramaic roots. Anquetil considered it formed from the Zend. Kleuker does 
not adopt this opinion. The Pehlvi, he savs, is much more flowing, and less 
overcharged with vowels, than the Zend. The looks of Zorca ter, fust written 
in Zend, were afterwards t: anslated into Pehlvi and Parei. The Pehlvi lad fallen 
into disuse under the dynasty of the Saswanides, but the learned still wrote it. 
The Parsi, ihe dialect of Pais or Farristan, was then the prevailing dialect. 
Kleaker, Anhanc. zum Zend A vesta, 2, ii. part i. p. 158, part ii. 01. — G. 

Mr. Erskine fBomb-iy Transac'.ions) considers the existing Zendavesta to have 
been compiled in the time of Ardeschir Babhegan. — M. 

* It is to be regretted that Gibbon followed the post-Mahometan Sadder of 
Hyde.— M. 


The great and fundamental article of the system was 
the celebrated doctrine of the two principles ; a bold and 
injudicious attempt of Eastern philosophy to reconcile the 
existence of moral and physical evil with the attributes of a 
beneficent Creator and Governor of the world. The first 
and original Being, in wham, or by whom, the universe 
exists, is denominated in the writings of Zoroaster, Time 
without bounds ;* but it must be confessed that this infinite 
substance seems rather a metaphysical abstraction of the 
mind than a real object endowed with self-consciousness, or 
possessed of moral perfections. From either the blind or 
the intelligent operation of this infinite Time, which bears 
but too near an affinity with the chaos of the Greeks, the 
two secondary but active principles of the universe were 
from all eternity produced, Ormusd and Ahriman, each of 
them possessed of the powers of creation, but each disposed, 
by his invariable nature, to exercise them with different 
designs. f The principle of good is eternally absorbed in light; 
the principle of evil eternally* buried in darkness. The wise 
benevolence of Ormusd formed man capable of virtue, and 
abundantly provided his fair habitation with the materials 
of happiness. By his vigilant providence, the motion of the 
planets, the order of the seasons, and the temperate mixture 
of the elements, are preserved. But the malice of Ahriman 
has long since pierced OrmustVs egg ; or, in other words, 
has violated the harmony of his works. Since that fatal 
irruption, the most minute articles of good and evil are in- 
timately intermingled and agitated together ; the rankest 
poisons spring up amidst the most salutary plants ; deluges, 
earthquakes, and conflagrations attest the conflict of Nature, 
and the little world of man is perpetually shaken by vice and 
misfortune. Whilst the rest of human kind are led away 
captives in the chains of their infernal enemy, the faithful 
Persian alone reserves his religious adoration for his friend 
and protector Ormusd, and fights under his banner of light, 
in the fu]l confidence that he shall, in the last day, share the 

* Zeruane Akerene, so translated by Anquetil and Kleuker. There is a dis- 
sertation of Foueher on this subject. Mem. de l'Acad. des Inscr. t. xxix. Accord- 
ing to Bohlen (das alte Indien) it is the Sanskrit Sarcam Akaranam, the Un- 
crea*ed Whole ; or, according to Fred. Schlegel, Sarvam Akharyam, the Uncrea- 
ted Indivisible. — M. 

t Tnis is an error. Ahriman was not forced by his invariable nature to do 
evil; the Zendavesta expre-slv recognizes (see the Izeschne) that he was born 
good, that in his origin he was light; envy rendered him evil ; he became jealous 
of the power and attributes of Ormuzd ; then light was chanced into darkness, 
and Ahriman was precipitated into the abyss. See the Abridgment of the Doc- 
trine of the Ancient Persians, by Anquetil, c. ii. § 2.— G. 


glory of his triumph. At that decisive period, the enlight- 
ened wisdom of goodness will render the power of Ormusd 
superior to the furious malice of his rival. Ahriman and 
his followers, disarmed and subdued, will sink into their 
native darkness ; and virtue wi 1 maintain the eternal peace 
and harmony of the universe. 11 f 

The theology of Zoroaster was darkly comprehended by 
foreigners, and even by the far greater number of his disci- 
ples ; but the most careless observers were struck with the 
philosophic simplicity of the Persian worship. " That peo- 
ple," says Herodotus, 12 " rejects the use of temples, of altars, 
and of statues, and smiles at the folly of those nations who 
imagine that the gods are sprung from, or bear any affinity 
with, the human nature. The tops of the highest moun- 
tains are the places chosen for sacrifices. Hymns and 
prayers are the principal worship; the Supreme God, who 
tills the wide circle of heaven, is the object to whom they 
are addressed." Yet, at the same time, in the true spirit of 
a polytheist, he accuses them of adoring Earth, Water, 
Fire, the Winds, and the Sun and Moon. But the Persians 
of every age have denied the charge, and explained the 
equivocal conduct which might appear to give a color to it. 
The elements, and more particularly Fire, Light, and the 
Sun, whom they called Mithra, $ were the objects of their 

11 The modern Parsees (and in some degree the Sadder) exalt Ormusd into the 
first and omnipotent cause, whilst they degrade Ahriman into an inferior but 
rebellious spirit. Their de>ire of pleasing the Mahometans may have contributed 
to refine their theological system. 

'-' Herodotus, 1. i. c. 131. But Dr. Prideaux thinks, with reason, that the use 
of temples was afterwards permitted in the Magian religion. 1 

.*■ According to the Zendavesta, Ahriman will not be annihilated or precipi- 
tated forever into darkness ; at the resurrection of the dead he will be entirely 
defeated by Ormuzd, his power will be destroyed, his kingdom overthrown to its 
foundations, he will himself be purified in torrents of melting metal ; lie will 
change his heart and his will, become holy, heavenly, establish in his dominions 
the law and word of Ormuzd, unite himself with him in everlasting friendship, 
and both will sing hymns in honor of the Great Eternal. See Anquetil's Abridg- 
ment. -Kleuker, Anhang, part iii. p. 85, 30: and the Izeschne, one of the books 
of the Zendavesta. According to the Sadder Bun-Dehesch, a more modern work, 
Ahriman is to be annihilated ; but this is contrary to the text itself of the Zenda- 
vesta, and to the idea which its author gives of the kingdom of Eternity, after 
the twelve thousand years assigned to the contest between Good and Evil. — G. 

t The pyrrea, or fire temples of the Zoroastrians (observes Kleuker Persica, 
p. 16), were only to be found in Media or Aderbidjan, provinces into which 
Herodotus did not penetrate. — M. 

X Among the Persians Mithra is not the Sun : Anquetil has contested and 
triumphantly refuted thp opinion of those who confound them, and it is evident- 
ly contrary to the text < f the Zendavesta. Mithra is the first of the genii, or 
fze'fs, created by Ormuzd ; it is he who watches over all nature. Hence arose the 
misapprehension of soma of the Greeks, who have said that Mithra was the sum- 
mns dens of the Persims : he has a thousand ears and ten thousand eyes. The 
Chaldeans appear to have assigned him a higher rank than the Persians. It is 
he who bestows upon the earth the light of the sun. The sun, named Khor 



religious reverence because they considered them as the 
purest symbols, the noblest productions, and the most 
powerful agents of the Divine Power and Nature. 13 

Every mode of religion, to make a deep and lasting im- 
pression on the human mind, must exercise our obedience 
by enjoining practices of devotion, for which we can assign 
no reason ; and must acquire our esteem, by inculcating 
moral duties analogous to the dictates of our own hearts. 
The religion of Zoroaster was abundantly j^rovided with the 
former, and possessed a sufficient portion of the latter. At 
the age of puberty the faithful Persian was invested with a 
mysterious girdle, the badge of the divine protection ; and 
from that moment all the actions of his life, even the most 
indifferent, or the most necessary, were sanctified by their 
peculiar prayers, ejaculations, or genuflections ; the omission 
of which, under any circumstances, was a grievous sin, not 
inferior in guilt to the violation of the moral duties. The 
moral duties, however, of justice, mercy, liberality, <fcc, were 
in their turn required of the disciple of Zoroaster who 
wished to escape the persecution of Ahriman, and to live 
with Ormusd in a blissful eternity, where the degree of 
felicity will be exactly proportioned to the degree of virtue 
and piety. 14 

1J Hyde de Relig, Pers. c. 8. Notwithstanding all their distinctions and pro- 
testations, which seem sincere enough, their tyrants, the Mahometans, have con- 
stantly stigmatised thein as idolatrous worshippers of the tire. 

14 See the Sadder, the smallest part of which consists of moral precepts. The 
ceremonies enjoined are infinite and trifiing. Fifteen genuflections, prayers, &c, 
wore required whenever the devout Persian cut his nails or made water ; or as 
often as he put on the sacred girdle. Sadder, Art. 14, 50, CO.* 

(brightness), is thus an inferior genius, who, with many other genii, bears a part 
in the functions of Mithra. These assistant genii to another genius are called 
his kamkars ; but in the Zendavesta they are never confounded. On the days 
sacred to a particular genius, the Persian ought to recite, not only the prayers 
addressed to him, but those also which are addressed to his kamkars ; thus the 
hymn or iescht of Mithra is recited on the day of the sun (Khor), and vice versa. 
It is probably this which has sometimes caused them to be confounded ; but 
Anquetil had himself exposed this error, which Kleuker, and all who have studied 
the Zendavesta, have noticed. See viii- Diss, of Anquetil. Kleuker s Anhang, 
paitiii. p. 132.— G. 

M, Guizot is unquestionably right, according to the pure and original doctrine 
of the Zend. The iviithriac worship, which was so extensively propagated in the 
West, and in which Mithra and the sun were perpetually confounded, seems to 
have been formed from a fusion of Zoroastrianism and Chaldaism, or the Syrian 
worship of the sun. An excellent abstract of the question, with references to the 
works of the chief modern writers on this cu'ious subject, De Sacy, Kleuker, 
Von Hammer, &c, maybe found in DeGuigniaut's translation of Kreuzer. Relig. 
d'Antlquite, notes viii. ix. to book ii. vol. i. 2d part, page 728. — M. 

* Zoroaster exacted much less ceremonial observance, than at a later period, 
the priests of his doctrines. This is the progress of all religions : the worship, 
simple in its origin, is gradually overloaded with minute superstitions. The 
maxim of the Zendavesta, on the relative merit of sowing the earth and of pray- 
ers,quoted belo v by Gibbon, proves that Zoroaster did not attach too much im- 
portance t"> these observances. Thus it is not from the Zendavesta that Gibbon 
derives the proof of his allegation, but from the Sadder, a much later work. — G. 


But there are some remarkable instances in which Zoro- 
aster lays aside the prophet, assumes the legislator, and dis- 
covers a liberal concern for private and public happiness, 
seldom to be found among the grovelling or visionary 
schemes of superstition. Fasting and celibacy, the common 
means of purchasing the divine favor, he condemns with 
abhorrence as a criminal rejection of the best gifts of Provi- 
dence. The saint, in the Magian religion, is obliged to beget 
children, to plant useful trees, to destroy noxious animals, to 
convey water to the dry lands of Persia, and to work out his 
salvation by pursuing all the labors of agriculture.* We 
may quote from the Zendavesta a wise and benevolent 
maxim, which compensates for many an absurdity. "He 
who sows the ground with care and diligence acquires a 
greater stock of religious merit than he could gain by the 
repetition of ten thousand prayers." 15 In the spring of 
every year a festival was celebrated, destined to represent 
the primitive equality, and the present connection, of man- 
kind. The stately kings of Persia, exchanging their vain 
pomp for more genuine greatness, freely mingled with the 
humblest but most useful of their subjects. On that day 
the husbandmen were admitted, without distinction, to the 
table of the king and his satraps. The monarch accepted 
their petitions, inquired into their grievances, and conversed 
with them on the most equal terms. " From your labors," 
was he accustomed to say (and to say with truth, if not with 
sincerity), " from your labors we receive our subsistence ; 
you derive your tranquillity from our vigilance ; since, there- 
fore, we are mutually necessary to each other, let us live 
together like brothers in concord and love." 16 Such a fes- 
tival must indeed have degenerated, in a wealthy and des- 
potic empire, into a theatrical representation ; but it was at 
least a comedy well worthy of a royal audience, and which 
might sometimes imprint a salutary lesson on the mind of a 
young prince. 

Had Zoroaster, in all his institutions, invariably sup- 
ported this exalted character, his name would deserve a 
place with those of Numa and Confucius, and his system 
would be justly entitled to all the applause which it has 
pleased some of our divines, and even some of our philoso- 

w Zendavesta, torn. i. p. 224, and Precis du Systeme de Zoroastre, torn. iii. 
lu Hyde de Religione Persarum, o. 19. 

* See, on Zoroaster's encouragement of agriculture, the ingenious remarks of 
Heereu, Ideen. vol. i. p. 449, &c, and Rhode, Heilige Sage, p. 517.— M. 


pliers, to bestow on it. But in that motley composition, 
dictated by reason and pnssiou, by enthusiasm and by selfish 
motives, some useful and sublime truths were disgraced by 
a mixture of the most abject and dangerous superstition. 
The Magi, or sacerdotal order, were extremely numerous, 
since, as we have already seen, fourscore thousand of them 
were convened in a general council. The forces were mul- 
tiplied by discipline. A regular hierarchy was diffused 
through all the provinces of Persia; and the Archimagus, 
who resided at Balch, was respected as the visible head of 
the church, and the lawful successor of Zoroaster. 17 The 
property of the Magi was very considerable. Besides the 
less invidious possession of a large tract of the most fertile 
lands of Media, 18 they levied a general tax on the fortunes 
and the industry of the Persians. 19 tW Though your good 
works," says the interested prophet, " exceed in number the 
leaves of the trees, the drops of rain, the stars in the heaven, 
or the sands on the sea-shore, they will all be unprofitable 
to you, unless they are accepted by the destour, or priest. 
To obtain the acceptation of this guide to salvation, you 
must faithfully pay him tithes of all you possess, of your 
goods, of your lands, and of your money. If the destour be 
satisfied, your soul will escape hell tortures; you will secure 
praise in this world and happiness in the next. For the des- 
tours are the teachers of religion ; they know all things, and 
they deliver all men." -°* 

These convenient maxims of reverence and implicit faith 

17 Hyde de Religione Persarum, c. 28. Both Hyde and Prideaux affect to ap- 
ply to the Magian the terms consecrated to the Christian hierarchy. 

w Ainmian. Marcellin. xxiii. 6. He informs ns (a< far as we may credit him) of 
two curious particulars : 1. That the Magi derived some of their most secret 
doctrines from the Indian Brachmans ; and, L'. That they were a tribe, or family, 
as well as order. 

'• The divine institution of tithes exhibits a singular instance of conformity 
between the law of Zoroaster and that of Moses. Those who cannot otherwise 
account for it, may suppose, if they please, that the Magi of the latter times in- 
serted so useful an interpolation into the writings of their prophet. 

so Sadder, Art. viii. 

* The passage quoted by Gibbou is not taken from the writings of Zoroaster, 
but from the Sadder, a work, as has been before said, much later than the books 
which form the Zendavesta, and written by a Magus for popular use; whac it 
contains, therefore, cannot be attributed to Zoroaster. It is remarkable that 
Gibbon should fall into this error, for Hyde himself does not ascribe the Sadder 
to Zoroaster ; he remarks that it is written in verse, while Zoroaster always wrote 
in prose. Hyde, i. p. 27 Whatever may be the case as to the latter assertion, for 
which there appears little foundation, it is unquestionable that the Sadder is of 
much later date. The Abbe Fo :cher does not even believe it to be an extract 
from the works of Zoroaster. See Ids Diss, before quoted. Mem. de PAcad. dvs 
Ins. t. xxvii— G. Perhaps it is rash to speak of any part of Hie Zendavesta as 
the writiny of Zoroaster, though it may be a genuine representation of his doc- 
ti-ines. As to the Sadder, Hyde (in Pr'aef.) considered it not above 200 years old. 
It is manifestly pos :. -Mahometan. See Art. xxv. on fasting.— M. 


were doubtless imprinted with care on the tender minds of 
youth ; since the Magi were the masters of education in 
Persia, and to their hands the children even of the royal 
family were intrusted. 21 The Persian priests, who were of 
a speculative genius, preserved and investigated the secrets 
of oriental philosophy ; and acquired, either by superior 
knowledge, or superior art, the reputation of being well 
versed in some occult sciences, which have derived their ap- 
pellation from the Magi. 22 Those of more active disposi- 
tions mixed with the world in courts and cities;. and it is 
observed, that the administration of Artaxerxes was in a 
great measure directed by the counsels of the sacerdotal 
order, whose dignity, either from policy or devotion, that 
prince restored to its ancient splendor. 23 

The first counsel of the Magi was agreeable to the unso- 
ciable genius of their faith, 24 to the practice of ancient 
kings, 25 and even to the example of their legislator, who 
had fallen a victim to a religious war, excited by his own 
intolerant zeal. 26 By an edict of Artaxerxes, the exercise of 
every worship, except that of Zoroaster, was severely pro- 
hibited. The temples of the Parthians, and the statues of 
their deified monarchs, were thrown down with ignominy. 27 
The sword of Aristotle (such was the name given by the 
Orientals to the polytheism and philosophy of the Greeks) 
was easily broken ; 28 the flames of persecution soon reached 
the more stubborn Jews and Christians ; 29 nor did they 
spare the heretics of their own nation and religion. The 
majesty of Ormusd, who was jealous of a rival, was seconded 
by the despotism of Artaxerxes, who could not suffer a 
rebel ; and the schismatics within his vast empire were soon 

21 Plato iii Alcibiad. 

22 Pliny (Hist. Natur. 1. xxx. c. I) observes, that magic held mankind by the 
triple chain of religion, of physic, and of astronomy. 

2J Agathias, 1. iv. p. 131. 

24 Mr. Hume, in the Natural History of Religion, sagaciously remarks, that the 
most refined and philosophic sects are constantly the most intoleiant.* 

- J Cicero de Legibus, ii. 10. Xerxes, by the advice of the Magi, destroyed the 
temples of Greece. 

-" Hyde de Kelig. Persar. c. 23, 24. D'Herbelot, Bibliotheque Orientale, Zur- 
dusht. Life of Zoroaster in torn. ii. of the Zendavesta. 

27 Compare Moses of (Jhorene, 1. ii. c. 74, with Ammian. Marcellin, xxiii. 6. 
Hereafter 1 shall make use of these passages. 

23 Rabbi Abraham, in the Tarikh Schiekard, pp. 108, 109. 

20 Ba<nage Histoire des Juifs, 1. viii. c. 3. Sozomen, 1. ii. c. 1. Manes, who suf- 
fered an ignominious death, may be deemed a Magian as well as a Christian 

* Hume's comparison is rather between theism and polytheism. In India, in 
Greece, and in modern Europe, philosophic religion has looked down with con- 
teniptaous toleration on the superstitions of the vulgar. — M. 


reduced to the inconsiderable number of eighty thousand. 30 * 
This spirit of persecution relleets dishonor on the religion of 
Zoroaster ; but as it was not productive of any civil com- 
motion, it served to strengthen the new monarchy, by unit- 
ing all the various inhabitants of Persia in the bands of reli- 
gious zeal.f 

II. Artaxerxes, by his valor and conduct, had w T rested 
the sceptre of the East from the ancient royal family of Par- 
thia. There still remained the more difficult task of estab- 
lishing, throughout the vast empire of Persia, a uniform and 
vigorous administration. The weak indulgence of the Ar- 
sacides had resigned to their sons and brothers the principal 
provinces and the greatest offices of the kingdom in the 
nature of hereditary possessions. The vitaxm, or eighteen 
most powerful satraps, were permitted to assume the regal 
title ; and the vain pride of the monarch was delighted with 
a nominal dominion over so many vassal kings. Even 
tribes of barbarians in their mountains, and the Greek cities of 
Upper Asia, 31 within their walls, scarcely acknowledged, or 
seldom obeyed, any superior ; and the Parthian empire ex- 
hibited, under other names, a lively image of the feudal 
system 32 which has since prevailed in Europe. But the 
active victor, at the head of a numerous and disciplined 
army, visited in person every province of Persia. The 
defeat of the boldest rebels, and the reduction of the strong- 
est fortifications, 33 diffused the terror of his arms, and pre- 
pared the way for the peaceful reception of his authority. 
An obstinate resistance was fatal to the chiefs ; but their 

30 Hyde de Religione Persar. c 21. 

81 These colonies were extremely numerous. SeleucusNicator founded Ihirty- 
nine cities, all named from himself, or some of his relations (see Appian in 
Syriac, p. 124). The sera of Seleueus (still in use among the eastern Christians) 
appears as late as the year 508, of Christ 190, on the medals of the Greek cities 
within the Parthian empire. See Moyle's works, vol. i. p. 273, &c, and M. Preret, 
Mem. de l'Academie, torn. xix. 

:s - The modern Persians distinguish that period as the dynasty of the kings of 
the nations. See Plin. Hist. Nat. vi. 25. 

33 Eutychius (torn. i. pp. 367, 371, 375 1 ) relates the siege of the island of Mesene 
in the Tigris, with some circumstances not unlike the story of Nysus and Scylia. 

* Tt is incorrect to attribute these persecutions to Artaxerxes. The Jews were 
held in honor by him, and their schools flourished during his reign. Co n pure 
Jost, Geschichte der Israeliter, b. xv. 5, with Basnage. Sapor was forced by the 
people to temporary severities ; but their real persecution did not be; in till the 
reigns of Yezdigerd and Kohad. Hist, of Jews, iii. 236. According to Sozomen, 
i. viii., Sapor first persecuted the Christians. Manes was put to death by 
Varanes the First, A. D. 277- Beausobre, Hist, de Man. i.209. — M. 

t In the testament of Ardischer in Ferdiui, the poet assigns these sentiments 
to the dying king, as lie addresses his son : Never forget that as a king, you are 
at once the protector of religion and of your country. Consider the altar and the 
throne as inseparable ; they must always sustain each other. Makolm's Persia, 
i. 74.— M. 


followers were treated with lenity. 34 A cheerful submission 
was rewarded with honors and riches, but the prudent Ar- 
taxerxes, suffering no person except himself to assume the 
title of king, abolished every intermediate power between 
the throne and the people. His kingdom, nearly equal in 
extent to modern Persia, was, on every side, bounded by 
the sea, or by great rivers ; by the Euphrates, the Tigris, 
the Araxes, the Oxus, and the Indus, by the Caspian Sea, 
and the Gulf of Persia. 35 That country was computed to 
contain, in the last century, five hundred and fifty-four 
eities, sixty thousand villages, and about forty millions of 
souls. 30 If Ave compare the administration of the house 
of Sassan with that of the house of Sen", the political in- 
fluence of the Magian with that of the Mahometan religion, 
we shall probably infer that the kingdom of Artaxerxes 
contained at least as great a number of cities, villages, and 
inhabitants. But it must likewise be confessed that in 
every age the want of harbors on the sea coast, and the 
scarcity of water in the inland provinces, have been very 
unfavorable to the commerce and agriculture of the Per- 
sians ; who, in the calculation of their numbers, seem to 
have indulged one of the meanest, though most common, 
artifices of national vanity. 

As soon as the ambitious mind of Artaxerxes had 
triumphed over the resistance of his vassals, he began to 
threaten the neighboring states, who, during the long slum- 
ber of his predecessors, had insulted Persia with impunity. 
He obtained some easy victories over the wild Scythians 
and the effeminate Indians ; but the Romans were an enemy 
who, by their past injuries and present power, deserved the 
utmost efforts of his arms. A forty years' tranquillity, the 
fruit of valor and moderation, had succeeded the victories 

34 Agathias, ii. 64 [and iv. p. 260]. The princes of Segestan defended their in- 
dependence during many years. As romances generally transport to an ancient 
period the events of their own time, it is not impo:-sible that the fabulous exploits 
of Kustan, Prince of Segestan, may have been grafted on this real history. 

30 We can scarcely attribute to the Persian monarchy the sea coast of Gedrosia 
or Macran, which extends along the Indian Ocean from Cape Jask (the promon- 
tory Capella) to Cape Goadel. In the time of Alexander, and probably many 
ages afterwards, it was thinly inhabited by a savage people of Icthyophagi, or 
Fishermen, who knew no arts, who acknowledged no master, and who were di- 
vided by inhospitable deserts from the rest of the world. (See Arrian de Reb. 
Indicia). In the twelfth century, the little town of Taiz (supposed by M- d'An- 
ville to be the Teza of Ptolemy) was peopled and enriched by the resort of the 
Arabian merchants. (See Geographia Nubiens, p. 58, and d'Anville, Geographie 
Ancienne, torn. ii. p. 283.) In the last age, the whole country was divided between 
three princes, one Mahometan ami two Idolaters, who maintained their inde- 

fendence against the successors of Shah Abbas. (Voyages de Tavernier, part i. 
, v. p. 635.) 
36 Chardin, torn. iii. c. 1, 2, 3. 


of Trajan. During the period that elapsed from the acces- 
sion of Marcus to the reign of Alexander, the Roman and 
the Parthian empires were twice engaged in war ; and al- 
though the whole strength of the Arsacides contended with 
a part only of the forces of Rome, the event was most com- 
monly in favor of the latter. Macrinus, indeed, prompted 
by his precarious situation and pusillanimous temper, pur- 
chased a peace at the expense of near two millions of our 
money ; 37 but the generals of Marcus, the emperor Severus, 
and his son, erected may trophies in Armenia, Mesopotamia, 
and Assyria. Among their exploits, the imperfect relation 
of which would have unseasonably interrupted the more im- 
portant series of domestic revolutions, we shall only men- 
tion the repeated calamities of the two great cities of 
Seleucia and Ctesiphon. 

Seleucia, on the western bank of the Tigris, about forty- 
five miles to the north of ancient Babylon, was the capital 
of the Macedonian conquests in Upper Asia. 38 Many ages 
after the fall of their empire, Seleucia retained the genuine 
characters of a Grecian colony, arts, military virtue, and 
the love of freedom. The independent republic was 
governed by a senate of three hundred nobles ; the people 
consisted of six hundred thousand citizens ; the walls were 
strong, and as long as concord prevailed among the several 
orders of the state, they viewed with contempt the power 
of the Parthian : but the madness of faction was sometimes 
provoked to implore the dangerous aid of the common 
enemy, who was posted almost at the gates of the colon*}'. 39 
The Parthian monarchs, like the Mogul sovereigns of Ilin- 
dostan, delighted in the pastoral life of their Scythian an- 
cestors ; and the Imperial camp was frequently pitched in 
the plain of Ctesiphon, on the eastern bank of the Tigris, 
at the distance of only three miles from Seleucia. 40 The 
innumerable attendants on luxury and despotism resorted 
to the court, and the little village of Ctesiphon insensibly 
swelled into a great city. 41 Under the reign of Marcus, the 

3 ? Dion, 1. xxviii. p. 1335. 

38 For the precise situation of Babylon, Seleucia, Ctesiphon, Modain, and Bag- 
dad, cities often confounded with each other, see an excellent Geographical Tract 
cf M. d'Anville, in Mem. de l'Acadeinie, torn. xxx. 

s» Tacit. Annal. xi. 42. Flin. Hist. ISat. vi, 26. 

40 This may he inferred from Strabo, 1. xvi. p. 743. 

41 That most curious traveller, Bernier, who followed the camp of Aurengzebe 
from Delhi to C'aslnnir, describes with great accuracy the immense moving city. 
The guard of cavalry consisted of 35.000 men, that of infantry of 10,000. It was 
computed that the camp contained 150.000 horses, mules, and elephants ; 50,000 
camels, 50,000 oxen, and between 300,000 and 400.000 persons. Almost all Delhi 
followed the court, whose magnificence supported its industry. 


Roman generals penetrated as far as Ctesiplion and Seleu- 
cia. They were received as friends by the Greek colony ; 
they attacked as enemies the seat of the Parthian kings; 
yet both cities experienced the same treatment. The sack 
and conflagration of Seleucia, with the massacre of three 
hundred thousand of the inhabitants, tarnished the glory of 
the Roman triumph. 42 Seleucia, already exhausted by the 
neighborhood of a too powerful rival, sunk under the fatal 
blow ; but Ctesiplion, in about thirty-three years, had suf- 
ficiently recovered its strength to maintain an obstinate 
siege against the emperor Severus. The city was, however, 
taken by assault ; the king, who defended it in person, es- 
caped with precipitation ; a hundred thousand captives, and 
a rich boc ty, rewarded the fatigues of the Roman soldiers. 43 
Notwithstanding these misfortunes, Ctesiplion succeeded to 
Babylon and to Seleucia as one of the great capitals of the 
East. In summer, the monarch of Persia enjoyed at Ecba- 
tana the cool breezes of the mountains of Media ; but the 
mildness of the climate engaged him to prefer Ctesiphon 
for his winter residence. 

From these successful inroads the Romans derived no 
real or lasting benefit ; nor did they attempt to preserve 
such distant conquests, separated from the provinces of the 
empire by a large tract of intermediate desert. The reduc- 
tion of the kingdom of Osrhoene was an acquisition of less 
splendor indeed, but of a far more solid advantage. That 
little state occupied the northern aud most fertile part of 
Mesopotamia, between the Euphrates and the Tigris. Edes- 
sa, its capital, was situated about twenty miles beyond the 
former of those rivers ; and the inhabitants, since the time 
of Alexander, were a mixed race of Greeks, Arabs, Syrians, 
and Armenians. 44 The feeble sovereigns of Osrhoene, 
placed on the dangerous verge of two contending empires, 
were attached from inclination to the Parthian cause ; but 
the superior power of Rome exacted from them a reluctant 
homage, which is still attested by their medals. After the 
conclusion of the Parthian war under Marcus, it was 
judged prudent to secure some substantial pledges of their 

42 Dion, 1. lxxi. p. 1178. Hist. August, p. 38. Eutrop. viii. 10. Euseb. in 
Chronic. Quadratus (quoted in the Augustan History) attempted to vindicate the 
Romans by alleging that the citizens of Seleucia had first violated their faith. 

4:i Dion, 1. lxxv. p. 12G3. Herodian. I. iii. p. 120. Hist. August, p. 70. 

44 The polished citizens of Antiod) called those of Edes.^a mixed barbarians. 
it w b, however, some praise, that of the three dialects of the Syriac, the purest 
and must elegant (the Aramaean) was spo .en at Ede sa. This remark M. Bayer 
Vllist. Edess. p. 5) has borrowed from George of Malatia, a Syrian writer. 


doubtful fidelity. Forts were constructed in several parts 
of the country, and a Roman garrison was fixed in the 
strong town of Nisibis. During the troubles that followed 
the death of Commodus, the princes of Osrhoene attempted 
to shake off the yoke ; but the stern policy of Severus con- 
firmed their dependence, 45 and the perfidy of Caracalla com- 
pleted the easy conquest. Abgarus, the last king of Edes- 
sa, was sent in chains to Rome, his dominions reduced into 
a province, and his capital dignified with the rank of col- 
ony ; and thus the Romans, about ten years before the fall 
of the Parthian monarchy, obtained a firm and permanent 
establishment beyond the Euphrates. 46 

Prudence as well as glory might have justified a war on 
the side of Artaxerxes, had his views been confined to the 
defence or the acquisition of a useful frontier. But the 
ambitious Persian openly avowed a far more extensive de- 
sign of conquest; and he thought himself able to support 
his lofty pretensions by the arms of reason as well as by 
those of power. Cyrus, he alleged, had first subdued, and 
his successors had for a long time possessed, the whole 
extent of Asia, as far as the Propontis and the iEgean Sea ; 
the provinces of Caria and Ionia, under their empire, had 
been governed by Persian satraps, and all Egypt, to the con- 
fines of ^Ethiopia, had acknowledged their sovereignty. 47 
Their rights had been suspended, but not destroyed, by a 
long usurpation ; and as soon as he received the Persian 
diadem, which birth and successful valor had placed upon 
his head, the first great duty of his station called upon him 
to restore the ancient limits and splendor of the monarchy. 
The Great King, therefore (such was the haughty style of 
his embassies to the emperor Alexander), commanded the 
Romans instantly to depart from all the provinces of his 
ancestors, and, yielding to the Persians the empire of Asia, 
to content themselves with the undisturbed possession of 
Europe. This haughty mandate was delivered by four hun- 
dred of the tallest and most beautiful of the Persians; who, 
by their fine horses, splendid arms, and rich apparel, dis- 

« Dion, 1. Ixxv. pp. 1248, 1249, 1250. M. Bayer has neglected to use this most 
important passage. 

40 This kingdom, fromOsrhoes, who gave a new name to the country, to the last 
Abgarus, had lasted 353 years. See the learned work of M. Bayer, Hisioria 
Osrhoena et Edessena. 

4 '" Xenophon. in the preface to the Cyropaxlia, gives a clear and magnificent 
idea of the extent of the empire of Cyrus. Herodotus (1. iii. c. 79, &c.) enters 
into a curious and particular description of the twenty great Satrapies into which 
the Persian empire was divided by Darius Hystaspes. 


played the pride and greatness of their master. 48 Such an 
embassy was much less an offer of negotiation than a dec- 
laration of war. Doth Alexander Sevcrus and Artaxerxes, 
collecting the military force of the Roman and Persian mon- 
archies, resolved in this important contest to lead their 
armies in person. 

If we credit whnt should seem the most authentic of all 
records, an oration, still extant, and delivered by the em- 
peror himself to the senate, we must allow that the victory 
of Alexander Severus was not inferior to any of those for- 
merly obtained over the Persians by the son of Philip. The 
army of the Great King consisted of one hundred and 
twenty thousand horse, clothed in complete armor of steel ; 
of seven hundred elephants, with towers filled with archers 
on their backs, and of eighteen hundred chariots armed 
with scythes. This formidable host, the like of which is 
not to be found in eastern history, and has scarcely been 
imagined in eastern romance, 49 was discomfited in a great 
battle, in which the Roman Alexander approved himself an 
intrepid soldier and a skilful general. The Great King fled 
before his valor; an immense booty, and the conquest of 
Mesopotamia, were the immediate fruits of this signal vic- 
tory. Such are the circumstances of this ostentatious and 
improbable relation, dictated, as it too plainly appears, by 
the vanity of the monarch, adorned by the unblushing ser- 
vility of his flatterers, and received without contradiction 
by a distant and obsequious senate. 50 Far from being in- 
clined to believe that the arms of Alexander obtained any 

48 Herodian, vi. 209, 212. 

49 There were two hundred scythed chariots at the battle of Arbela, in the host 
of Darius. In the vast aimy of Tigranes, which was vanquished by Lucullus, 
seventeen thousand horse only were completely armed. Antiochus brought fifty- 
four elephants into the field against the Romans; by his frequent wars and ne- 
gotiations with the princes of India, he had once collected a hundred and tifty of 
those great animals ; but it may be questioned whether the most powerful mon- 
arch of Hindostan ever formed a line of battle of seven hundred elephants. Instead 
of thre^or four thousand elephants, which the Great Mogul was supposedto possess, 
Tavernier (Voyages, part ii. 1. i. p. 198) discovered, by a more accurate inquiry, 
that he had only live hundred for his baggage, and eighty or ninety for the ser- 
vice of war. The Greeks have varied with regard to the number 'which Porus 
biought into the field , but Quintus Curtius (viii. 13), in this instance judicious 
and moderate, is contented with eighty-five elephants, distinguished by their size 
and strength. In Siam, where these animals are the mo. t numerous and the most 
esteemed, eighteen elephants are allowed as a sufficient proportion for each of 
the nine brig.-ides into which a just army is divided. The whole number, of one 
hundred ami sixty-two elephants of war, may sometimes be doubled. Hist, des 
Voyages, torn. ix. p. 260.* 

W Hist. August, p. 133.t 

* Compare Gibbon's note 10 to eh. lvii. — M. 

t See M. Guizot's note, page 267. According to the Persian authorities, Ardes- 
chir extended his conquests to the Euphrates. Malcolm, i. 71.— M. 


memorable advantage over the Persians, we are induced to 
suspect that all this blaze of imaginary glory was designed 
to conceal some real disgrace. 

Our suspicions are confirmed by the authority of a con- 
temporary historian, who mentions the virtues of Alexander 
with respect, and Ins faults with candor. lie describes the 
judicious plan which had been formed for the conduct of 
the war. Three Roman armies were destined to invade 
Persia at the same time, and by different roads. But the 
operations of the campaign, though wisely concerted, were 
not executed either with ability or success. The first of 
these armies, as soon as it had entered the marshy plains of 
Babylon, towards the artificial conflux of the Euphrates and 
the Tigris, 51 was encompassed by the superior numbers, 
and destroyed by the arrows, of the enemy. The alliance of 
Chosroes, king of Armenia, 52 and the long tract of mountain- 
ous country, in which the Persian cavalry was of little ser- 
vice, opened a secure entrance into the heart of Media to 
the second of the Roman armies. These brave troops laid 
waste the adjacent provinces, and by several successful ac- 
tions against Artaxerxes gave a faint color to the emperor's 
vanity. But the retreat of this victorious army was impru- 
dent, or at least unfortunate. In repassing the mountains, 
great numbers of soldiers perished by the badness of the 
roads and the severity of the winter season. It had been 
resolved that, whilst these two great detachments penetrated 
into the opposite extremes of the Persian dominions, the 
main body, under the command of Alexander himself, should 
support their attack by invading the centre of the kingdom. 
But the unexperienced youth, influenced by his mother's 
counsels, and perhaps by his own fears, deserted the bravest 
troops and the fairest prospect of victory; and, after con- 
suming in Mesopotamia an inactive and inglorious summer, 
he led back to Antioch an army diminished by sickness, and 
provoked by disappointment. The behavior of Artaxerxes 
had been very different. Flying with rapidity from the 
hills of Media to the marshes of the Euphrates, he had 
everywhere opposed the invaders in person ; and in either 
fortune had united with the ablest conduct the most un- 
daunted resolution. But in several obstinate engagements 

51 M. de Tillemont lias already observed, that Herodian's geography is some- 
what confused. 

2 Moses of Ohorene (Hist. Armen. 1. ii. c. 71) illustrates this invasion of Me- 
dia, by asserting that Chosroes, king of Armenia, defeated Artaxerxes, ami pur- 
sued him lo the confines of India. The exploits of Chosroes have been magni- 
fied ; and he acted as a dependent ally to the Romans. 


against the veteran legions of Rome, the Persian monarch 
had lost the flower of his troops. Even his victories had 
weakened his power. The favorable opportunities of the 
absence of Alexander, and of the confusions that followed 
that emperor's death, presented themselves in vain to his 
ambition. Instead of expelling the Romans, as he pre- 
tended, from the continent of Asia, he found himself un- 
able to wrest from their hands the little province of Meso- 
potamia. 53 

The reign of Artaxerxes, which from the last defeat of 
the Parthians lasted only fourteen years, forms a memorable 
a3ra in the history of the East, and even in that of Rome. 
His character seems to have been marked by those bold and 
commanding features, that generally distinguish the princes 
who conquer, from those who inherit, an empire. Till the 
last period of the Persian monarchy, his code of laws was 
respected as the groundwork of their civil and religious 
policy. 54 Several of his sayings are preserved. One of 
them in particular discovers a deep insight into the consti- 
tution of government. "The authority of the prince," said 
Artaxerxes, "must be defended by a military force; that 
force can only be maintained by taxes ; all taxes must, at 
last, fall upon agriculture ; and agriculture can never flourish 
except under the protection of justice and moderation." 55 
Artaxerxes bequeathed his new empire, and his ambitious 
designs against the Romans, to Sapor, a son not unworthy 
of his great father ; but those designs were too extensive for 
the power of Persia, and served only to involve both na- 
tions in a long series of destructive wars and reciprocal 

The Persians, long since civilized and corrupted, were 
very far from possessing the martial independence, and the 
intrepid hardiness, both of mind and body, which have ren- 
dered the northern barbarians masters of the world. The 
science of war, that constituted the more rational force of 
Greece and Rome, as it now does of Europe, never made 
any considerable progress in the East. Those disciplined 
evolutions which harmonize and animate a confused multi- 

53 For the account of this war, see Herodian, 1. vi. pp. 20D, 212. The oldab- 
breviators and modern compilers have blindly followed the Augustan History. 

s* Eutychius, torn. ii. p. 180, vers. Pocock. The great Chosrot-s Noushirwan 
sent the code of Artaxerxes to all his satraps, as the invariable rule of their con- 

55 D'Herbelot, Bibliotheiue Orientale, an mot Ardshlr. We may observe that 
after an ancient period of fables, and a long interval of dai'kness, the niodei-n 
histories of Persia begin to assume an air of truth with the dynasty of Sassanides. 
Compare Malcolm, i. 79. — M. 


tude were unknown to the Persians. They were equally 
unskilled in the arts of constructing, besieging, or defending 
regular fortifications. They trusted more to their numbers 
than to their courage ; more to their courage than to their 
discipline. The infantry was a half-armed, spiritless crowd 
of peasants, levied in haste by the allurements of plunder, 
and as easily dispersed by a victory as by a defeat. The 
monarch and his nobles transported into the camp the pride 
and luxury of the seraglio. Their military operations were 
impeded by a useless train of women, eunuchs, horses, and 
camels ; and in the midst of a successful campaign the Per- 
sian host was often separated or destroyed by an unexpected 
famine. 56 

But the nobles of Persia, in the bosom of luxury and des- 
potism, preserved a strong sense of personal gallantry and 
national honor. From the age of seven years they were 
taught to speak truth, to shoot with the bow, and to ride ; 
and it was universally confessed that in the two last of these 
arts they had made a more than common proficiency. 57 
The most distinguished vouth were educated under the 
monarch's eye, practised their exercises in the gate of Ins 
palace, and were severely trained up to the habits of tem- 
perance and obedience in their long and laborious parties of 
hunting. In every province the satrap maintained a like 
school of military virtue. The Persian nobles (so natural is 
the idea of feudal tenures) received from the king's bounty 
lands and houses, on the condition of their service in war. 
They Avere ready on the first summons to mount on horse- 
back, with a martial and splendid train of followers, and to 
join the numerous bodies of guards, who were carefully 
selected from among the most robust slaves and the bravest 
adventurers of Asia. These armies, both of light and of 
heavy cavalry, equally formidable by the impetuosity of 
their charge and the rapidity of their motions, threatened, 
as an impending cloudy the eastern provinces of the declining 
empire of Rome. 58 

53 Herodian. 1 vi. p. 214. Ammianus Marcellinus, X. xxiii. c. 6. Some differ- 
ences may be observed between the two historians, the natural effects of the 
changes produced by a century and a half. 

57 'Hie Persians are still the most skilful horsemen, and their horses the finest, 
in the East. 

B * From Heroiiotus, Xenophon, Herodian, Ammianus, Chardin, &c, I have ex- 
tracted such probtibfe accounts of the Persian nobilPy, as seem either common to 
every age, or particular to that of the Sassanides. 




The government and religion of Persia have deserved 
some notice, from their connection with the decline and fall 
of the Roman empire. We shall occasionally mention the 
Scythian or Sarmatian tribes,* which, with their arms and 
horses, their flocks and herds, their wives and families, wan- 
dered over the immense plains which spread themselves from 
the Caspian Sea to the Vistula, from the confines of Persia 
to those of Germany. But the warlike Germans, who first 
resisted, then invaded, and at length overturned the Western 
monarchy of Rome, will occupy a much more important place 
in this history, and possess a stronger, and, if we may use the 
expression, a more domestic, claim to our attention and re- 
gard. The most civilized nations of modern Europe issued 
from the woods of Germany ; and in the rude institutions of 
those barbarians we may still distinguish the original priii- 

* The Scythians, even according to the ancients, are not Sarmatians. [It may 
be doubted whether Gibbon intended to confound them.— M.] The Greeks, after 
having divided the world in'o Greeks and barbarians, divided the barbarians into 
four great classes, the Celts, the Scythians, the Indians, and the Ethiopians. 
They called Celts all the inhabitants of Gaul. Scythia extended from the Baltic 
Sea to the Lake Aral: the people enclosed in the angle to the north-east, between 
Celtica and Scythia, were called Cello-Scythians, and the Sarmatian were placed 
in the southern part of that angle. But these names of Celts, of Scythians, of 
Celto-Scythians. and Sarmatians, were invented, says Schlozer, by the profound 
cosmographical ignorance of the Greeks, and have no real ground ; they are 
purely geographical divisions, without any relation to the true altiliation of the 
different races. Thus all the inhabitants of Gaul are called Celts by most of the 
ancient wri ers ; yet Gaul contained three totally distinct nations, the Belgre, the 
Aquitani, and the Gauls, properly so called. Hi omnes lingua, institutis, le^ibus- 
que inter se differunt. Caesar. Com. c. i. It is thus the Turks call all Europeans 
Franks. Schlozer, Allcremeine Nordische Geschichte, p. 289. 1771. Bayer (de 
Origine et priscis Sedibus Scytharum, in Opusc. p. 64) says, Primus eorum, de 
quibus constat, Ephovus, in quarto historiarum libro, orbem terrarum inter 
Scythas, Indos, ^Ethiopas et Celtas divisit. Fragmentum ejus loci Cosmas In- 
dicopleustes in topographia Christiana, f. 148, conservavit. Video igitwr Epho- 
rum, cum locorum positus per certa capita distribuere et explicare constitueret, 
insigniorum nomina gentium vastioribus spatiis adhibuisse, nulla mala franrfe 
at succe.ssu in/elici. Nam EphorO quoquomodo dicta pro exploratis ha'bebant 
Grreei plerique et Komani: ita gliscebat error posteritate. lgitur tot tamque 
diverse slirpis gentes non modo intra communem quandam regionem delinitae, 
unum omnes Scytharum nomen his auctoribus subierunt. sed etiem ab ilia 
rff/innis adpellatione in eandem itafionem Sunt oonllata?. Sic Cimmerioium res 
cum Scythhis, Scytharum cum Sannaticis, Iiussicis, Hunnicis, Tataricis com- 
miscentur.— G. 


ciples of our present laws and manners. In their primitive 
state of simplicity and independence, the Germans were sur- 
veyed by the discerning eye, and delineated by the masterly 
pencil, of Tacitus,* the first of historians who applied the 
science of philosophy to the study of facts. The expressive 
conciseness of his descriptions has served to exercise the 
diligence of innumerable antiquarians, and to excite the 
genius and penetration of the philosophic historians of our 
own times. The subject, however various and important, 
has already been so frequently, so ably, and so successfully 
discussed, that it is now grown familiar to the reader, and 
difficult to the writer. \Ve shall therefore content ourselves 
with observing, and indeed with repeating, some of the most 
important circumstances of climate, of manners, and of in- 
stitutions, which rendered the wild barbarians of Germany 
such formidable enemies to the Roman power. 

Ancient Germany, excluding from its independent limits 
the province westward of the Rhine, which had submitted to 
the Roman yoke, extended itself over a third part of Europe.f 

* The Germania of Tacitus has been a fruitful source of hypothesis to the in- 
genuity of modern writers, who have endeavored to account for the form of the 
work and the views of the author. According to Luden (Geschichte des T. V. 
i. 432, and note), it contains the unfinished and disarranged collectanea for a 
larger work. An anonymous writer, supposed by Luden to be M. Becker, con- 
ct ives that it was intended as an episode in his larger history. According to M. 
Guizot. " Tacite a peint les Germains comme Montaigne et Rousseau les sau- 
vag s, dans mi acces d'humeur contre sa patrie : son livre est une satire des 
moeurs Romaines, l'eloquente boutade d"un patriote philosophe qui veut voir la 
\ urtu la, ou il ne rencontre pas la mollesse honteuse et la depraYation savante 
d'une vieille societe." Hist, de la Civilisation Moderue, i. 258. — M. 

t Germany was not of such vast extent. It is from Caesar, and more particu- 
larly from Ptolemy (says Gatterer), that we can know what was the state of 
ancient Germany beforethe wars with the Romans had changed the positions of 
the tribes. Germany, as changed by these wars, has been described by Strabo, 
Pliny, and Tacitus. Germany, properly so called, was bounded on the west by 
tho Rhine, on the east by the Vistula, on the north by the southern point of Nor- 
way, by Sweden, and Esthonia. On the south, the Maine and the mountains to 
the north of Bohemia formed the limits. Before the time of Caesar, the country 
between the Maine and the Danube was partly occupied by the Helvetians and 
other Gauls, partly by the Hercynian forest ; but, from the time of Caesar to the 
great migration, these boundaries were advanced as far as the Danube, or, what 
is the same thing, tothe Suabian Alps, although the Hercynian forest still occu- 
pied, from north to south, a space of nine days' journey on both banks of the 
Danube. ''Gatterer, Versuch einer all-gemeinen Welt-Geschichte," p. 424. edit, 
de 1792. This vast country was far from being inhabited by a single nation 
divided into different tribes of the same origin. We may reckon three principal 
races, very distinct in their language, their origin, and their customs. 1. To the 
east, the Slaves or Vandals. 2. To the west, the Cimmerians or Cimbri. 3. Be- 
tween the Slaves and Cimbrians, the Germans, properly so called, the Suevi of 
Tacitus. The South was inhabited, before Julius Caesar, by nations of Gaulish 
origin, afterwards by the Suevi. — G. On the position of these nations, the Ger- 
man antiquaries differ. I. The Slaves, or Sclavonians or Wendish tribes, accord- 
ing to Schlozer, were originally settled in parts of Germany unknown to the 
Romans, Mecklenburgh, Pomerania. Brandenburgh, Upper Saxony, and Lusatia. 
According to Gatterer, they remained to the east of the Theiss, the Niemeu, and 
the Vistula, till the third century. The Slaves, according to Procopius and Jor- 
nandes, formed three great divisions. 1. The Venedi or Vandals, who took the 
latter name (the Wenden), having expelled the Vandals, properly so called (a 


Almost the whole of modern Germany, Denmark, Norway, 
Sweden, Finland, Livonia, Prussia, and the greater part of 
Poland, were peopled by the various tribes of one great 
nation, whose complexion, manners, and language denoted a 
common origin, and preserved a striking resemblance. On 
the west, ancient Germany was divided by the Rhine from 
the Gallic, and on the south, by the Danube, from the Illyrian, 
provinces of the empire. A ridge of hills, rising from the 
Danube, and called the Carpathian Mountains, covered Ger- 
many on the side of Dacia or Hungary. The eastern frontier 
was faintly marked by the mutual fears of the Germans and 
the Sarmatinns, and was often confounded by the mixture of 
warring and confederating tribes of the two nations. In the 
remote darkness of the north the ancients imperfectly de- 
scried a frozen ocean that lay beyond the Baltic Sea, and 
beyond the Peninsula, or islands^of Scandinavia. 

1 The modern philosophers of Sweden seem agreed that the waters of the Bal- 
tic gradually sink in a regular proportion, which they have ventured to estimate 
at half an inch every year. Twenty centuries ago the flat country of Scandinavia 
must have been covered by the sea; while the high lands rose above the waters, 

Suevian race, the conquerors of Africa), from the country between the Memel 
and the Vistula. 2. The Ante-, who inhabited between the Dneister and the 
Dnieper. 3. The Sclavonians, properly so called, in the north of Dacia. During 
the great migration, these rates advanced into Germany as far as the Saal and 
the Elbe. The Sclav onian language is the stem from which have issued the Rus- 
sian, the Polish, the Bohemian, and the dialects of Lusatia, of some parts of the 
duchy of Luneburgh, of Carniola, Carinthia, and Styria, &c; those of Croati :, 
Bosnia, and Bulgaria. Schlozer, Nordische Oeschichte, pp. 323,335. II. The 
Cimbric race. Adelung calls by this name all who were not Suevi. This race 
had passed the Rhine, before the time of Ca j sar, occupied Belgium, and are the 
Belg;e of C;esar and Pliny. The Cinibrians also occupied the Isle of Jutland. 
The Cymri of Wales and of Britain are of this race. Many tribes on the right 
bank of the Rhine, the Guthini in Jutland, the Usipeti in Westphalia, the Sigam- 
bri iu the duchy of Berg, were German Cimlnians. III. The Suevi, known in very 
early times by the Romans, for they are mentioned by L. Corn. Sisenna, who 
lived 123 years before Christ (Nonius v. Laneea). This race, the real Germans, 
extended to the Vistula, and from the Baltic to the Hercynian forest. The name 
of Suevi was sometimes conlined to a single tribe, as by Caesar to the Catti. The 
name of the Sue\ i has been preserved in Suabia. 

These three were the principal races which inhabited Germany ; they moved 
from east to west, and are the parent stem of the modern natives. But northern 
Europe, according to Schlozer. was not peopled by them alone; other races, of 
different origin, and speaking different languages, have inhabited and left 
descendants in these countries. 

The German tribes called themselves, from very remote times, by the generic 
name of Teutons (Teuten, Deutschen), which Tacitus derives from thai of one 
of their gods, Tuisco. It appears more probable that it means merely men, peo- 
ple. Many savage nations have given themselves no other name. Thus the 
Laplanders call "themselves Almag, people ; the Samoiedes Nilletz, Nissetsch, 
men, &c. As to the name of Germans (Germani), Caesar found it in use in Gaul, 
and adopted it as a word already known to the Roman;:. Many of the learned 
(from a passage of Tacitus, de Mor. Germ, c- 2) have supposed that it was only 
applied to the Teutons after Caesar's time ; but Adelung has triumphantly re- 
futed this opinion. The name of Germans is found in the Fasti Capitolini. See 
Gruter, Inscrip. 2K09, in which the consul Marcellus, in the year of Rome 531, is 
said to have defeated the Gauls, the Insubrians, and the Germans, commanded 
by Virdomar. See Adelung, Aelt. Geschichte der Deutsch, p. 102.— Compressed 
from G. 



Some ingenious writers 2 have suspected that Europe was 
much colder formerly than it is at present ; and the most 
ancient descriptions of the climate of Germany tend exceed- 
ingly to confirm their theory. The general complaints of 
intense frost and eternal winter are perhaps little to be re- 
garded, since we have no method of reducing to the accurate 
standard of tl j thermometer the feelings, or the expressions, 
of an orator born in the happier regions of Greece or Asia. 
But I shall select two remarkable circumstances of a less 
equivocal nature. 1. The great rivers which covered the 
Roman provinces, the Rhine and the Danube, were frequently 
frozen over, and capable of supporting the most enormous 
weights. The barbarians, who often chose that severe season 
for their inroads, transported,without apprehension or danger, 
their numerous armies, their cavalry, and their heavy wagons, 
over a vast and solid bridge of ice. 3 Modern ages have not 
presented an instance of a like phenomenon. 2. The rein- 
deer, that useful animal, from whom the savage of the North 
derives the best comforts of his dreary life, is of a constitu- 
tion that supports, and even requires, the most intense cold. 
He is found on the rock of Spitzberg, within ten degrees of 
the Pole ; he seems to delight in the snows of Lapland and 
Siberia ; but at present he cannot subsist, much less multi- 
ply, in any country to the south oi the Baltic. 4 In the time 

as so many islands of various forms and dimensions. Such, indeed, is the notion 
given us by Mela, Pliny, and Tacitus, of the vast countries round the Baltic. See 
in the Bibliotheque Raisonnee, torn. xl. and xlv. a large abstract of Dalin's His- 
tory of Sweden, composed in the Swedish language.* 

2 In particular, Mr Hume, the Abbe du Bos, and M. Pelloutier, Hist, des 
Celtes, torn i. 

3 Diodorus Siculus, 1. v p. 340, edit. Wessel. Herodian, 1. vi. p. 221. Jornan- 
des, c. 55. On the banks of the Danube, the wine, when hi ought to table, 
was frequently frozen into great lumps, frusta vini. Ovid. Epist. ex Ponto. 1. iv. 
7, 9, 10. Virgil. Georgic. 1. iv 355. The fact is confirmed by a soldier and a phil- 
osopher, who had experienced the intense cold of Thrace See Xenophon, An- 
abasis. 1 vii. p. 560, edit. Hutchinson. t 

4 Buffon, Hi.stoire Naturelle, torn. xii. pp. 79, 116. 

* Modern geologists have rejected this theory of the depression of the Baltic, 
as inconsistent with recent observation. The considerable changes which have 
taken pla-e on its shores, Mr. Lyell, from actual observation, now decidedly at- 
tributes to the regular and uniform elevation of the land. — Lyell's Geology, b. ii. 
c. 17.— M. 

t The Danube is constantly frozen over At Pesth the bridge is usually taken 
up, and the traffic and communication between the two banks carried on over t e 
ice. The Rhine is likewise in many parts passable at least two years out of five. 
Winter campaigns are so unusual, in modern warfare, that 1 recollect hut one 
instance of an army crossing either river on the ice. In the thirty years' war 
(1635), Jan van Werth, an Imperialist partisan, crossed the Rhine from Heidel- 
berg on the ice with 5000 men, and surprised Spiers. Pichegru's memorable 
campaign (1794-5). when the freezing of the Meuse and Waal opened Holland to 
his eonquests, and his cavalry and artillery attacked the ships frozen in, on the 
Zuyder Zee, was in a winter of unprecedented severity.— M. 1S45. 


of Caesar the reindeer, as well as the elk and the wild bull, 
was a native of the Hercyman forest, which then over- 
shadowed a great part of Germany and Poland. 5 The 
modern improvements sufficiently explain the causes of the 
diminution of the cold. These immense woods have been 
gradually cleared, which intercepted from the earth the rays 
of the sun. 6 The morasses have been drained, and, in pro- 
portion as the soil has been cultivated, the air has become 
more temperate. Canada, at this day, is an exact picture of 
ancient Germany. Although situated in the same parallel 
with the finest provinces of France and England, that coun- 
try experiences the most rigorous cold. The reindeer are 
very numerous, the ground is covered with deep and lasting 
snow, and the great river St. Lawrence is regularly frozen, 
in a season when the waters of the Seine and the Thames 
are usually free from ice. 7 

It is difficult to ascertain, and easy to exaggerate, the 
influence of the climate of ancient Germany over the minds 
and bodies of the natives. Many writers have supposed, and 
most have allowed, though, as it should sdem, without any 
adequate proof, that the rigorous cold of the North was 
favorable to long life and generative vigor, that the women 
were more fruitful, and the human species more prolific, than 
in warmer or more temperate climates. 8 We may assert, 
with greater confidence, that the keen air of Germany formed 
the large and masculine limbs of the natives, who were, in 
general, of a more lofty stature than the people of the 
South, 9 gave them a kind of strength better adapted to vio- 
lent exertions than to patient labor, and inspired them with 
constitutional bravery, which is the result of nerves and 

5 Caesar de Bell. Gallic, vi. 23, &c The most inquisitive of the Germans were 
ignorant of its utmost limits, although some of them had travelled in it more 
than sixty days' journey.* 

G Cluverius (Germania Antiqua, 1. iii. c. 47) investigates the small and scat- 
tered remains of the Hercynian wood. 

7 Charlevoix, Histoire du Canada. 

8 Olaus Rudbeck asserts that the Swedish women often bear ten or twelve chil- 
dren, and not uncommonly twenty or thirty; but the authority of Rudbeck is 
much to be suspected. 

In hos artus, in haec corpora, quae miramur, excrescunt. Tacit. German 
3, 23. Cluver. 1. i. c. 14. 

* The passage of Caesar, " parvis renonum tegumentis utuntur," is obscure, 
observes Luden (Geschicbte des Teutschen Volkes), and insufficient to prove the 
reindeer to have existed in Germany. It is supported, however, by a fragment 
of Sallust. Germani imectum lhenonibus corpus tegunt. — M. It has been sug- 
gested to me that Caesar (as old Gesner supposed) meant the reindeer in the fol 
lowing description. Est bos cervi ligura cujus a media f route inter aures unum 
cornu existit, excelsius magisque directum (divaricatum, qu. ?) his quae nobis 
nota sunt cornibus Ab ejus suinmo,sicutpalmae, rami quam late diffunduntur 
Bell. Gallic, vi. 2C— M. 1845. 


spirits. The severity of a winter campaign, that chilled the 
courage of the Roman troops, was scarcely felt by these 
hardy children of the North, 10 who, in their turn, were unable 
to resist the summer heats, and dissolved away in languor 
and sickness under the beams of an Italian sun. 11 

There is not anywhere upon the globe a large tract of 
country which we have discovered destitute of inhabitants, 
or whose first population can be fixed with any degree of 
historical certainty. And yet, as the most philosophic 
minds can seldom refrain from investigating the infancy of 
great nations, our curiosity consumes itself in toilsome and 
disappointed efforts. When Tacitus considered the purity 
of the German blood, and the forbidding aspect of the 
country, he was disposed to pronounce those barbarians 
Indigence, or natives of the soil. We may allow with safety, 
and perhajDS with truth, that ancient Germany was not 
originally peopled by any foreign colonies already formed 
into a political society ; 12 but that the name and nation 
received their existence from the gradual union of some 
wandering savages of the Ilercynian woods. To assert 
those savages to have been the spontaneous production of 
the earth which they inhabited would be a rash inference, 
condemned by religion, and unwarranted by reason. 

Such rational doubt is but ill suited with the genius of 
popular vanity. Among the nations who have adopted the 
Mosaic history of the world, the ark of Noah has been of 
the same use, as was formerly to the Greeks and Romans 
the siege of Troy. On a narrow basis of acknowledged 

10 Plutarch, in Mario. The Cimbri. by way of amusement, often slid down 
mountains of snow on their broad shields. 

11 The Romans made war in all climates, and by their excellent discipline 
were in a great measure preserved in health and vigor. It maybe remarked that 
man is the only animal winch can live and multiply in every country from the 
equator to the poles. The hog seems to approach the nearest to our species in 
that privilege. 

*- Tacit. Germ. c. 3. The emigration of the Gauls followed the course of the 
Danube, and discharged itself on Greece and Asia. Tacitus could discover only 
one inconsiderable tribe that retained any traces of a Gallic origin.* 

* The Gothini, who must not be confounded with the Gothi, a Suevian tribe. 
In the time of Caesar many other tribes of Gaulish origin dwelt along the course 
of the Danube, who could not long resist the attacks ot' the Suevi. The Helve- 
tians, who dwelt on the borders of the Black Forest, between the Maine and the 
Danube, had been expelled long 1 ef ore the time of Caesar. He mentions aho the 
Volci Tectosagi, who came from Languedoc, and settled round the Black Forest. 
The Boii, who had penetrated into that forest, and also have left traces of their 
name in Bohemia, were subdued in the first century by the Marcomanni. The 
Boii settled in Noricum, were mingled afterwards with the Lombards, and re- 
ceived the name of Boio Arii (Bavaria') or Boiovarii : var, in some German dia- 
lects, appearing to mean remains, descendants. Compare Malte Brun Geog- 
raphy, vol. i. p.' 410, edit. 1832.— M. 


truth, an immense but rude superstructure of fable has been 
erected ; and the wild Irishman, 13 as well as the wild Tartar, 14 
could point out the individual son of Japhet, from whose 
loins his ancestors were lineally descended. The last cen- 
tury abounded with antiquarians of profound learning and 
easy faith, who, by the dim light of legends and traditions, 
of conjectures and etymologies, conducted the great grand- 
children of Noah from the Tower of Babel to the extrem- 
ities of the globe. Of these judicious critics, one of the 
most entertaining was Olaus Rudbeck, professor in the 
university of Upsal. 15 Whatever is celebrated either in 
history or fable this zealous patriot ascribes to his country. 
From Sweden (which formed so considerable a part of 
ancient Germany) the Greeks themselves derived their 
alphabetical characters, their astronomy, and their religion. 
Of that delightful region (for such it appeared to the eyes 
of a native) the Atlantis of Plato, the country of the Hyper- 
boreans, the gardens of the Hesperides, the Fortunate 
Islands, and even the Elysian Fields, were all but faint and 
imperfect transcripts. A clime so profusely favored by 
Nature could not long remain desert after the flood. The 
learned Rudbeck allows the family of Noah a few years to 
multiply from eight to about twenty thousand persons. He 
then disperses them into small colonies to replenish the 
earth, and to propagate the human species. The German 
or Swedish detachment (which marched, if I am not mis- 
taken, under the command of Askenaz, the son of Gomer, 
the son of Japhet) distinguished itself by a more than com- 
mon diligence in the prosecution of this great work. The 
northern hive cast its swarms over the greatest part of 
Europe, Africa, and Asia ; and (to use the author's meta- 
phor) the blood circulated from the extremities to the 

But all this well-labored system of German antiquities is 
annihilated by a single fact, too well attested to admit of any 

13 According to Dr. Keating (History of Ireland, pp. 13, 14), the giant Partho- 
lanus, who was the son of Seara, the son of Esra, the son of Sru, the son of 
Framant, the son of Fathaclan, the son of Magog, the son of Japhet, the son 
of Noah, landed on the coast of Munster, the 14th day of May, in the year of the, 
world one thousand nine hundred and seventy-eight. Though he succeeded in 
his great enterprise, the loose behavior of his wife rendered his domestic life 
very unhappy, and provoked him u> such a degree, that he killed— her favorite 
greyhound. This, as the learned historian very properly observes, was the first 
instance of female falsehood and infidelity ever known in Ireland. 

l * Genealogical History of the Tartars, by Abulghazi Bahadur Khan. 

r> His work, entitled Atlantica, is uncommonly scarce. Bayle has given two 
most curious extracts from it. Itepublique des Lettres, Janvier et Fevrier, 


doubt, and of too decisive a nature to leave room for any 
reply. The Germans, in the age of Tacitus, were unac- 
quainted with the use of letters; 16 and the use of letters is the 
principal circumstance that distinguishes a civilized people 
from a herd of savages incapable of knowledge or reflection. 
Without that artificial help, the human memory soon dis- 
sipates or corrupts the ideas intrusted to her charge ; and 
the nobler faculties of the mind, no longer supplied with 
models or with materials, gradually forget their powers ; 
the judgment becomes feeble and lethargic, the imagin- 
ation languid or irregular. Fully to apprehend this impor- 
tant truth, let us attempt, in an improved society, to calcu- 
late the immense distance between the man of learning and 
the illiterate peasant. The former, by reading and reflec- 
tion, multiplies his own experience, and lives in distant 
ages and remote countries ; whilst the latter, rooted to a 
single spot, and confined to a few years of existence, sur- 
passes but very little his fellow-laborer, the ox, in the exer- 
cise of his mental fnculties. The same, and even a greater, 
difference will be found between nations than between indi- 
viduals; and we may safely pronounce, that without some 
species of writing, no people has ever preserved the faithful 
annals of their history, ever made any considerable progress 
in the abstract sciences, or ever possessed, in any tolerable 
degree of perfection, the useful and agreeable arts of life. 

10 Tacit. Germ. ii. 19. Literarum secreta viri pariter ac feeminpe ignorant. 
We may rest contented with this decisive authority, without entering into ihe 
obscure disputes concerning the antiquity of the Runic characters. The learned 
Celsius, a Swede, a scholar, and a philosopher, wa< of opinion that they were 
nothing more than the Roman letters, with the curves changed into straight 
lines for the ease of engraving. SeePelloutier, Histoire des Celtes, 1. ii. c. 11. 
Dictionnaire Diplomatique, torn, i p. 22'*.. We may add, that the oldest Runic 
inscriptions are supposed to he of the third century, and the most ancient wri- 
ter who mentions the Runic characters is Venantius Fortunatus (Carm. vii. IS), 
who lived towards the end of the sixth century. 

Barbara fraxineis pingatur Ruxa tabellis.* 

* The obscure subject of the Runic characters has exercised the industry and 
ingenuity of the modern scholars of the north. There are three distinct theo- 
ries ; one, maintained by Schlozer (Nordische Geschichte, p. 481, &c). who con- 
side, s their sixteen letters to be a corruption of the Roman alphabet, post- 
Clmstian in their date, and Schlozer would attribute their introduction into the 
north to the Alemanni. The second, that of Frederick Schlegel (Vorlesungen 
iiber alte und neue Literatur), supposes that these characters were left on the 
coasts of the Mediterranean and Northern Seas by the Phoenicians, preserved by 
the priestly castes, and employed for purposes of magic. Their common origin 
from the Phoenician would account for their similarity to the Roman letters. 
The la<t, to which we incline, claims a much higher and more venerable an- 
tiquity for the Runic, and supposes them to h;ive been the original characters of 
the Indo-Teuoi ic tribes, brought from the East, and preserved among the dif- 
ferent races of that stock. See Ueber Deutsche Runen von W. C. Grimm, 182!. 
A Memoir lv Dr. Legls. Fundgruben des alten Nordens. Foreign (Quarterly 
Review, vol. ix. p. 438.— M. 


Of these arts the ancient Germans were wretchedly des- 
titute. They passed their lives in a state of ignorance and 
poverty, which it has pleased some declaimers to dignify 
with the appellation of virtuous simplicity.* Modern Ger- 
many is said to contain about two thousand three hundred 
walled towns. 17 In a much wider extent of country the 
geographer Ptolemy could discover no more than ninety 
places which he decorates with the name of cities ; 18 though, 
according to our ideas, they would but ill deserve that 
splendid title. We can only suppose them to have been 
rude fortifications, constructed in the centre of the woods, 
and designed to secure the women, children, and cattle, 
whilst the warriors of the tribe marched out to repel a sud- 
den invasion. 19 But Tacitus asserts, as a well-known fact, 
that the Germans, in his time, had no cities ; 20 and that they 
affected to despise the works of Roman industry as places 
of confinement rather than of security. 21 Their edifices 
were not even contiguous, or formed into regular villas ; 22 
each barbarian fixed his independent dwelling on the spot 
to which a plain, a wood, or a stream of fresh water, had 
induced him to give the preference. Neither stone, nor 
brick nor tiles, were employed in these slight habitations. 23 
They were indeed no more than low huts, of a circular 
figure, built of rough timber, thatched with straw, and 
pierced at the top to leave a free passage for the smoke. In 
the most inclement winter the hardy German was satisfied 
with a scanty garment made of the skin of some animal. 

17 Recherches Philosophiques sur les Amerieains, torn. iii. p. 228. The author 
of that very curious work is, if I am not misinformed, a German by birth. [De 

18 The Alexandrian Geographer is often criticized by the accurate Cluverius. 

19 See Caesar, and the learned Mr. Whitaker in his History of Manchester, 
vol. i. 

20 Tacit. Germ. 15. 

2i When the Germans commanded the Ubii of Cologne to cast off the Roman 
yoke, and with their new freedom to resume their ancient manners they insisted 
on the immediate demolition of the walls of the colony. " Postulaums a voids, 
muros colonise, munimenta servitii, detrahatis ; etiam fera animalia, si clausa 
teneas, virtnlis obliviscuntnr." Tacit. Hist. iv. 64. 

22 The straggling villages of Silesia are several miles in length. See Cluver. 
1. i. c. 13. 

23 One hundred and forty years after Tacitus, a few more regular structures 
were erected near the Rhine and Danube. Herodian. 1. vii. p. 234. 

* Luden (the author of the Geschichte des Teutschen Volkes) has surpassed, 
most writers in his patriotic enthusiasm for the virtues and noble manners of 
his ancestors. Even the cold of the climate, and the want of vines and fruit 
tree*, as well as the barbarism of the inhabitants, are calumnies of the luxurious 
Italians. M. Gnizot, on the other side (in his Histoire de la < ivilisafion. vol. i. 

&272, <vc.) has drawn a curious parallel between the Germans of Tacitus and the 
orth American Indians. — M. 


The nations who dwelt towards the North clothed them- 
selves in furs ; and the- women manufactured for their own 
use a coarse kind of linen.' 24 The game of various sorts, 
with which the forests of Germany were plentifully stocked, 
supplied its inhabitants with food and exercise.* 25 Their 
monstrous herds of cattle, less remarkable indeed for their 
beauty than for their utility,' 26 formed the principal object 
of their wealth. A small quantity of corn was the only 
produce exacted from the earth : the use of orchards or 
artificial meadows was unknown to the Germans ; nor can 
we expect any improvements in agriculture from a people 
whose property every year experienced a general change by 
a new division of the arable lands, and who, in that strange 
operation, avoided disputes by suffering a great part of 
their territory to lie waste and without tillage. 1 ' 7 

Gold, silver, and iron were extremely scarce in Ger- 
many. Its barbarous inhabitants wanted both skill and pa- 
tience to investigate those rich veins of silver, which have 
so liberally rewarded the attention of the princes of Bruns- 
wick and Saxony. Sweden, which now supplies Europe 
with iron, was equally ignorant of its own riches ; and the 
appearance of the arms of the Germans furnished a suffi- 
cient proof how little iron they were able to bestow on 
what they must have deemed the noblest use of that metal. 
The various transactions of peace and war had introduced 
some Roman coins (chiefly silver) among the borderers of 
the Rhine and Danube ; but the more distant tribes were 
absolutely unacquainted with the use of money, carried on 
their confined traffic by the exchange of commodities, and 
prized their rude earthen vessels as of equal value with the 
silver vases, the presents of Rome to the princes and am- 
bassadors. 28 To a mind capable of reflection, such leading 
facts convey more instruction than a tedious detail of 
subordinate circumstances. The value of money has been 
settled by general consent to express our wants and our 
property, as letters were invented to express our ideas; and 
both these institutions, by giving a more active energy to 
the powers and passions of human nature, have contributed 
to multiply the objects they were designed to represent. 
The use of gold and silver is in a great measure factitious ; 
but it would be impossible to enumerate the important and 
various services which agriculture, and all the arts, have 

24 Tacit. Germ. 17. 2fj Tacit. Germ. 5. - c Caesar de Bell. Gall. vi. 21. 
27 Tacit. Germ. 26. Caesar, vi- 22. 28 Tacit. Germ. 6. 


received from iron, when tempered and fashioned by the 
operation of fire and the dexterous hand of man. Money, 
in a word, is the most universal incitement, iron the most 
powerful instrument, of human industry ; and it is very 
difficult to conceive by what means a people, neither actu- 
ated by the one, nor seconded by the other, could emerge 
from the grossest barbarism. 29 

If we contemplate a savage nation in any part of the 
globe, a supine indolence and a carelessness of futurity will 
be found to constitute their general character. In a civil- 
ized state every faculty of man is expanded and exercised; 
and the great chain of mutual dependence connects and em- 
braces the several members of society. The most numerous 
portion of it is employed in constant and useful labor. The 
select few, pi iced by fortune above that necessity, can, how- 
ever, fill up their time by the pursuits of interest or glory, 
by the improvement of their estate or of their understand- 
ing, by the duties, the pleasures, and even the follies of so- 
cial life. The Germans were not possessed of these varied 
resources. The care of the house and family, the manage- 
ment of the land and cattle, were delegated to the old and 
the infirm, to women and slaves. The lazy warrior, desti- 
tute of every art that might employ his leisure hours, con- 
sumed his days and nights in the animal gratifications of 
sleep and food. And yet, by a wonderful diversity of na- 
ture (according to the remark of a writer who had pierced 
into its darkest recesses), the same barbarians are by turns 
the most indolent and the most restless of mankind. They 
delight in sloth, they detest tranquillity. 30 The languid soul, 
oppressed with its own weight, anxiously required some 
new and powerful sensation ; and war and danger were the 
only amusements adequate to its fierce temper. The sound 
that summoned the German to arms was grateful to his ear. 
It roused him from his uncomfortable lethargy, gave him 
an active pursuit, and by strong exercise of the body, and 
violent emotions of the mind, restored him to a more lively 
sense of his existence. In the dull intervals of peace these 
barbarians were immoderately addicted to deep gaming and 
excessive drinking ; both of which, by different means, the 
one by inflaming their passions, the other by extinguishing 

20 It is said that the Mexicans and Peruvians, without the use of either money 
or iron. ha;l made a very great progress in the arts. Those arts, and the monu- 
ments they produced, have heen strangely magnified. See Recherches sur le3 
Amerieains,tom. ii. p. 153, &c. 

38 Tacit. Germ. 15. 


their reason, alike relieved them from the pain of thinking. 
They gloried in passing whole days and nights at table ; and 
the blood of friends and relations often stained their nu- 
merous and drunken assemblies. 31 Their debts of honor 
(for in that light they have transmitted to us those of play) 
they discharged with the most romantic fidelity. The des- 
perate gamester, who had staked his person and liberty on 
a last throw of the dice, patiently submitted to the decision 
of fortune, and suffered himself to be bound, chastised, 
and sold into remote slavery, by his weaker but more lucky 
antagonist. 32 

Strong beer, a liquor extracted with very little art from 
wheat or barley, and corrupted (as it is strongly expressed 
by Tacitus) into a certain semblance of wine, was sufficient 
for the gross purposes of German debauchery. But those 
who had tasted the rich wines of Italy, and afterwards of 
Gaul, sighed for that more delicious species of intoxication. 
They attempted not, however (as has since been executed 
with so much success), to naturalize the vine on the banks 
of the Rhine and Danube ; nor did they endeavor to pro- 
cure by industry the materials of an advantageous com- 
merce. To solicit by labor what might be ravished by 
arms was esteemed unworthy of the German spirit. 33 The 
intemperate thirst of strong liquors often urged the bar- 
barians to invade the provinces on which art or nature had 
bestowed those much envied presents. The Tuscan who be- 
trayed his country to the Celtic nations attracted them 
into Italy by the prospect of the rich fruits and delicious 
wines, the productions of a happier climate. 34 And in the 
same manner the German auxiliaries, invited into France 
during the civil wars of the sixteenth century, were allured 
by the promise of plenteous quarters in the provinces of 
Champagne and Burgundy. 35 Drunkenness, the most il- 
liberal, but not the most dangerous of our vices, was some- 
times capable, in a less civilized state of mankind, of oc- 
casioning a battle, a war, or a revolution. 

The climate of ancient Germany has been mollified, and 
the soil fertilized, by the labor of ten centuries from the 
time of Charlemagne. The same extent of ground which at 

31 Tacit. Germ. 22, 23. 

32 Id. 24. The Germans might borrow the arts of play from the Romans, but 
the passion is wonderfully inherent in the human species. 

38 Tacit. Germ. 14. 

34 Plutarch, in Camillo. T. Liv. v. 33. 

35 Dubos. Hist, de la Monarchic Francoise, torn. i. p. 193. 


present maintains, in ease and plenty, a million of husband- 
men and artificers, was unable to supply a hundred thousand 
iazy warriors with the simple necessaries of life. 36 The Ger- 
mans abandoned their immense forests to the exercise of 
hunting, employed in pasturage the most considerable part 
of their lands, bestowed on the small remainder a rude and 
careless cultivation, and then accused the scantiness and 
sterility of a country that refused to maintain the multitude 
of its inhabitants. When the return of famine severely 
admonished them of the importance of the arts, the na- 
tional distress was sometimes alleviated by the emigration 
of a third, perhaps, or a fourth part of their youth. 37 The 
possession and the enjoyment of property are the pledges 
which bind a civilized people to an improved country.* 
But the Germans, who carried with them Avhat they most 
rallied, their arms, their cattle, and their women, cheer- 
fully abandoned the vast silence of their woods for the 
unbounded hopes of plunder and conquest. The innumer- 
able swarms that issued, or seemed to issue, from the great 
storehouse of nations, were multiplied by the fears of the 
vanquished and by the credulity of succeeding ages. And 
from facts thus exaggerated, an opinion was gradually 
established, and has been supported by writers of distin- 
guished reputation, that, in the age of Caesar and Tacitus, 
the inhabitants of the North were far more numerous than 
they are in our days. 38 A more serious inquiry into the 
causes of population seems to have convinced modern phi- 
losophers of the falsehood, and indeed the impossibility, of 
the supposition. To the names of Mariana and of Machi- 
avel 39 we can oppose the equal names of Robertson and 
Hume. 40 

39 The Helvetian nation, which issued from the country called Switzerland, 
contained, of every age ami sex, 368,00U persons (Cassar de Bell. Gal. i. 29). At 
present the number of people in the Pays de Vaud (a small district on the banks 
of the Leman Lake, much more distinguished for politeness than for industry) 
amoints to 112, 591. See an excellent tract of M. Muret, in the Memoires de la 
Societe de Bern. 

3 ' Paul Diaconus, c. 1, 2, 3- Machiavel, Davila, and the rest of Paul's fol- 
lowers, represent these emigrations too much as regular and concerted meas- 

Si Sir William Temple and Montesquieu have indulged, on this subject, the 
usual liveliness of their fancy. 

«■» Machiavel, Hist, di Firenze, 1. i. Mariana, Hist. Hispan. 1. v. c. 1 

40 Robertson's Charles V. Hume's Political Essays.* 

* It is a wise observation of Malthus, that these nations " were not populous 
in proportion to the land they occupied, but lo the food they produced. They 
were prolific from their pure morals and constitutions, but their institutions 
were not calculated to produce food for those whom they brought into beimr — 
M. 1815. b * 


A warlike nation like the Germans, without either cities, 
letters, arts, or money, found some compensation for this 
savage state in the enjoyment of liberty. Their poverty 
secured their freedom, since our desires and our possessions 
are the strongest fetters of despotism. "Among the 
Suiones (says Tacitus) riches are held in honor. They are 
therefore subject to an absolute monarch, who, instead of 
intrusting his people with the free use of arms, as is prac- 
tised in the rest of Germany, commits them to the safe 
custody, not of a citizen, or even of a freedman, but of a 
slave. The neighbors of the Suiones, the Sitones, are sunk 
even below servitude ; they obey a woman." 41 In the men- 
tion of these exceptions the great historian sufficiently 
acknowledges the general theory of government. We are 
only at a loss to conceive by what means riches and despot- 
ism could penetrate into a remote corner of the North, and 
extinguish the generous flame that blazed with such fierce- 
ness on the frontier of the Roman provinces, or how the 
ancestors of those Danes and Norwegians, so distinguished 
in latter ages by their uneonquered spirit, could thus tamely 
resign the great character of German liberty. 42 Some tribes, 
however, on the coast of the Baltic, aeknowledged the au- 
thority of kings, though without relinquishing the rights of 
men, 43 but in the far greater part of Germany the form of 
government was a democracy, tempered, indeed, and con- 
trolled, not so much by general and positive laws, as by the 
occasional ascendant of birth or valor, of eloquence or 
superstition. 44 

Civil governments, in their first institution, are volun- 
tary associations for mutual defence. To obtain the desired 
end, it is absolutely necessary that each individual should 
conceive himself obliged to submit his private opinions and 

« Tacit. German. 44, 45. Freinshemius (who dedicated his supplement to 
Livy to Christina oi Sweden) thinks proper to he very angry with the liomaii who 
expressed .<o very little reverence for Northern queens.* 

•*- May we not suspect that supeistition was the parent of despotism? The 
descendants ot Odin (whose race was not extinct till the year 1060), are said to 
have reigned in Sweden above a thousand years. The temple of Upsal was the 
a h ient seat of religion and empire. In the year 1153 1 rind a singular law, pro- 
hibiting the use and profession of arms to any except the king's guards. ]s it 
not probable that it was colored by the pretence of reviving an old institution',' 
See Daliu's Historv of Sweden in ihe Bibliotheque Kaisonnee. torn. xl. and xlv. 

« Tacit, Germ. c. 43. « Id. c. 11, 12, 13, &c. 

* The Suiones and the Sitones are the ancient inhabitants of Scandinavia ; 
their name may be traced in that of Sweden ; they did not belong to the race of 
the Suevi, but that of the non-Suevi or Cimbri, whom the Suevi, in very remote 
times, drove back part to the west, part to the north ; they were afterwards min- 
gled with Suevian tribes, among others the Goths, who have left traces of their 
name and power in the isle of Gothland. — G. 


actions to the judgment of the greater number of his asso- 
ciates. The German tribes were contented with this rude 
but liberal outline of political society. As soon as a youth, 
born of free parents, had attained the age of manhood, he 
was introduced into the general council of his countrymen, 
solemnly invested with a shield and spear, and adopted as 
an equal and worthy member of the military commonwealth. 
The assembly of the warriors of the tribe was convened at 
stated seasons, or on sudden emergencies. The trial of 
public offences, the election of magistrates, and the great 
business of peace and Avar, were determined by its indepen- 
dent voice. Sometimes indeed, these important questions 
were previously considered and prepared in a more select 
council of the principal chieftains. 45 The magistrates might 
deliberate and persuade, the people only could resolve and 
execute ; and the resolutions of the Germans were for the 
most part hasty and violent. Barbarians accustomed to 
place their freedom in gratifying the present passion, and 
their courage in overlooking all future consequences, turned 
away with indignant contempt from the remonstrances of 
justice and policy, and it was the practice to signify by a 
hollow murmur their dislike of such timid counsels. But 
whenever a more popular orator proposed to vindicate the 
meanest citizen from either foreign or domestic injury, 
whenever lie called upon his fellow-countrymen to assert 
the national honor, or to pursue some enterprise full of 
danger and glory, a loud clashing of shields and spears 
expressed the eager applause of the assembly. For the Ger- 
mans always met in arms, and it was constantly to be 
dreaded lest an irregular multitude, inflamed with faction 
and strong liquors, should use those arms to enforce, as well 
as to declare, their furious resolves. We may recollect how 
often the diets of Poland have been polluted with blood, 
and the more numerous party has been compelled to yield 
to the more violent and seditious. 46 

A general of the tribe was elected on occasions of dan- 
ger ; and, if the danger was pressing and extensive, several 
tribes concurred in the choice of the same general. The 
bravest warrior was named to lead his countrymen into the 
field, by his example rather than by his commands. But 
this power, however limited, was still invidious. It expired 

45 Grotius changes an expression of Tacitus, pertraciantur into prcetraclantur. 
The co! rection is equally just and ingenious. 

6 Even in our ancient parliament the barons often carried a question, not so 
much by the number of votes, as by that of their armed followers. 


with the war, and in time of peace the German tribes ac- 
knowledged not any supreme chief. 47 Princes were, how- 
ever, appointed, in the general assembly, to administer 
justice, or rather to compose differences, 48 in their respec- 
tive districts. In the choice of these magistrates, as much 
regard was shown to birth as to merit. 49 To each was as- 
signed, by the public, a guard and a council of a hundred 
persons, and the first of the princes appears to have enjoyed 
a preeminence of rank and honor which sometimes tempted 
the Romans to compliment him with the regal title. 50 

The comparative view of the powers of the magistrates, 
in two remarkable instances, is alone sufficient to represent 
the whole system of German manners. The disposal of the 
landed property within their district was absolutely vested 
in their hands, and they distributed it every year according 
to a new division. 51 At the same time they were not author- 
ized to punish with death, to imprison, or even to strike a 
private citizen. 52 A people thus jealous of their persons, 
and careless of their possessions, must have been totally 
destitute of industry and the arts, but animated with a high 
sense of honor and independence. 

The Germans respected only those duties which they 
imposed on themselves. The most obscure soldier resisted 
with disdain the authority of the magistrates. u The noblest 
youths blushed not to be numbered among the faithful com- 
panions of some renowned chief, to whom they devoted 
their arms and service. A noble emulation prevailed among 
the companions to obtain the first place in the esteem of 
their chief; amongst the chiefs, to acquire the greatest num- 
ber of valiant companions. To be ever surrounded by a 
band of select youths was the pride and strength of the 
chiefs, their ornament in peace, their defence in war. The 
glory of such distinguished heroes diffused itself beyond the 
narrow limits of their own tribe'. Presents and embassies 
solicited their friendship, and the fame of their arms often 
ensured victory to the party which they espoused. In the 
hour of danger it was shameful for the chief to be surpassed 
in valor by his companions ; shameful for the companions 
not to equal the valor of their chief. To survive his fall in 
battle was indelible infamy. To protect his person, and to 

v Caesar de Bell. Gal. yi. 23. 

* 8 Minuunt controversial, is a very happy expression of Caesar's. 

49 Reges ex nobilitate, duces ex virtute summit. Tacit. Genu. 7. 

60 Cluver. Germ. Ant. 1. i. c. 38. 

51 Caesar, vi. 22. Tacit. Germ. 26. 52 Tacit. Germ. 7. 


adorn his glory with the trophies of their own exploits, were 
the most sacred of their duties. The chiefs combated for 
victory, the companions for the chief. The noblest war- 
riors, whenever their native country was sunk in the lazi- 
ness of peace, maintained their numerous bands In some dis- 
tant scene of action, to exercise their restless spirit, and to 
acquire renown by voluntary dangers. Gifts worthy of 
soldiers — the warlike steed, the bloody and ever victorious 
lance — were the rewards which the companions claimed 
from the liberality of their chief. The rude plenty of his 
hospitable board was the only pay that he could bestow, or 
they would accept. War, rapine, and the free-will offerings 
of his friends, supplied the materials of this munificence." 53 
This institution, however it might accidentally weaken the 
several republics, invigorated the general character of the 
Germans, and even ripened amongst them all the virtues of 
which barbarians are susceptible ; the faith and valor, the 
hospitality and the courtesy, so conspicuous long afterwards 
in the ages of chivalry. The honorable gifts, bestowed by 
the chief on his brave companions, have been supposed, by 
an ingenious writer, to contain the first rudiments of the 
fiefs, distributed,after the conquest of the Roman provinces, 
by the barbarian lords among their vassals, with a similar 
duty of homage and military service. 54 These conditions 
are, however, very repugnant to the maxims of the ancient 
Germans, who delighted in mutual presents, but without 
either imposing, or accepting, the weight of obligations. 55 

" In the days of chivalry, or more properly of romance, 
all the men were brave and all the women were chaste ; " 
and notwithstanding the latter of these virtues is acquired 
and preserved with much more difficulty than the former, it 
is ascribed, almost without exception, to the wives of the 
ancient Germans. Polygamy was not in use, except among 
the princes, and among them only for the sake of multiply- 
ing their alliances. Divorces were prohibited by manners 
rather than by laws. Adulteries were punished as rare and 
inexpiable crimes; nor was seduction justified by example 
and fashion. 50 We may easily discover that Tacitus indulges 

53 Tacit. Germ. 13, 14. 

54 E prit ties Loix. 1. xxx. c. 3. The brilliant imagination of Montesquieu is 
corre; tad, however, by the dry, cold reason of the Abbe de Mably. Observations 
»ur I'Histoire de France, torn. i. p. 350. 

Wj Guudent muneribus, sed nee data imputant, nee acceptis obligantur. Tacit. 
Germ. c. 21. 

5(5 The adulteress was whipped through the village. Neither wealth nor 
beauty could inspire compassion, or procure her a second husband, 18, 19. 


an honest pleasure in the contrast of barbarian virtue with 
the dissolute conduct of the Roman ladies ; yet there are 
some striking circumstances that give an air of truth, or at 
least of probability, to the conjugal faith and chastity of the 

Although the progress of civilization has undoubtedly 
contributed to assuage the fiercer passions of human nature, 
it seems to have been less favorable to the virtue of chastity, 
whose most dangerous enemy is the softness of the mind. 
The refinements of life corrupt while they polish the inter- 
course of the sexes. The gross appetite of love becomes 
most dangerous when it is elevated, or rather, indeed, dis- 
guised by sentimental passion. The elegance of dress, of 
motion, and of manners, gives a lustre to beauty, and in- 
flames the senses through the imagination. Luxurious enter- 
tainments, midnight dances, and licentious spectacles, pre- 
sent at once temptation and opportunity to female frailty. 67 
From such dangers the unpolished wives of the barbarians 
were secured by poverty, solitude, and the painful cares of a 
domestic life. The German huts, open, on every side, to 
the eye of indiscretion or jealousy, were a better safeguard of 
conjugal fidelity than the walls, the bolts, and the eunuchs of 
a Persian harem. To this reason another may be added of 
a more honorable nature. The Germans treated their women 
with esteem and confidence, consulted them on every occa- 
sion of importance, and fondly believed that in their breasts 
resided a sanctity and wisdom more than human. Some of 
these interpreters of fate, such as Velleda, in the Batavian 
war, governed, in the name of the deity, the fiercest nations 
of Germany. 58 The rest of the sex, without being adored as 
goddesses, were respected as the free and equal companions 
of soldiers ; associated even by the marriage ceremony to a 
life of toil, of danger, and of glory. 59 In their great inva- 
sions, the camps of the barbarians were filled with a multi- 
tude of women, who remained firm and undaunted amidst 
the sound of arms, the various forms of destruction, and the 
honorable wounds of their sons and husbands. 00 Fainting 
armies of Germans have, more than once, been driven back 
upon the enemy by the generous despair of the women, who 

57 Ovid employs two hundred lines in the research of places the most favor- 
able to love. Above all, he considers the theatre as the best adapted to collect 
the beauties of Rome, and to melt them into tenderness and sensuality. 

" Tacit. Hist. iv. 61, 65. 

59 The marriage present was a yoke of oxen, horses, and arms. See Germ. c. 
18. Tacitus is somewhat loo florid on the subject. 

60 The change of exiyere into exsuy ere is a most excellent correction. 


dreaded death much less than servitude. If the day was 
irrecoverably lost, they well knew how to deliver themselves 
and their children, with their own hands, from an insulting 
victor. 61 Heroines of such a cast may claim our admiration ; 
but they were most assuredly neither lovely nor very suscepti- 
ble of love. Whilst they affected to emulate the stern virtues 
of »(««, they must have resigned that attractive softness in 
which principally consist the charm and weakness of woman. 
Conscious pride taught the German females to suppress 
every tender emotion that stood in competition with honor, 
and the first honor of the sex has ever been that of chastity. 
The sentiments and conduct of these high-spirited matrons 
may, at once, be considered as a cause, as an effect, and as a 
proof of the general character of the nation. Female cour- 
age, however it may be raised by fanaticism, or confirmed 
by habit, can be only a faint and imperfect imitation of the 
manly valor that distinguishes the age or country in which 
it may be found. 

The religious system of the Germans (if the wild opinions 
of savages can deserve that name) was dictated by their 
wants, their fears, and their ignorance. 62 They adored the 
great visible objects and agents of nature, the Sun and the 
Moon, the Fire and the Earth ; together with those imagi- 
nary deities who were supposed to preside over the most im- 
portant occupations of human life. They were persuaded 
that, by some ridiculous arts of divination, they could dis- 
cover the will of the superior beings, and that human sacri- 
fices were the most precious and acceptable offering to their 
altars. Some applause has been hastily bestowed on the 
sublime notion, entertained by that people, of the Deity, 
whom they neither confined within the walls of a temple, 
nor represented by any human figure ; but when we recol- 
lect that the Germans were unskilled in architecture, and 
totally unacquainted with the art of sculpture, we shall 
readily assign the true reason of a scruple which arose not 
so much from a superiority of reason as from a want of in- 
genuity. The only temples in Germany were dark and an- 
cient groves, consecrated by the reverence of succeeding 

61 Tacit. Germ. c. 7. Plutarch in Mario. Before the wives of the Teutones 
destroyed themselves and their children, they had offered to surrender, on con- 
dition that they should he received as the slaves of the vestal virgins. 

02 Tacitus ha-; employed a few lines, and Cluverius one hundred and twenty- 
four pages, on this obscure subject. The former discovers in Germany the gods 
of Greece and Rome. The latter is positive, that, under the emblems of the sun, 
the moon, and the lire, his pious ancestors worshipped the Trinity in unity. 



generations. Their secret gloom, the imagined residence of 
an invisible power, by presenting no distinct object of fear 
or worship, impressed the mind with a still deeper sense of 
religious horror ; C3 and the priests, rude and illiterate as 
they were, had been taught by experience the use of every 
artifice that could preserve and fortify impressions so well 
suited to their own interest. 

The same ignorance, which renders barbarians incapable 
of conceiving or embracing the useful restraints of laws, 
exposes them naked and unarmed to the blind terrors of 
superstition. The German priests, improving this favorable 
temper of their countrymen, had assumed a jurisdiction 
even in temporal cpncerns which the magistrate could not 
venture to exercise; and the haughty warrior patiently sub- 
mitted to the lash of correction, when it was inflicted, not 
by any human power, but by the immediate order of the 
god of Avar. 64 The defects of civil policy were sometimes 
supplied by the interposition of ecclesiastical authority. 
The latter was constantly exerted to maintain silence and 
decency in the popular assemblies ; and was sometimes e»* 
tended to a more enlarged concern for the national welfare. 
A solemn procession was occasionally celebrated in the pres* 
ent countries of Mecklenburgh and Pomerania. The un- 
known symbol of the Earth, covered with a thick veil, was 
placed on a carriage drawn by cows ; and in this manner 
the goddess, whose common residence was in the Isle of 
Rugen, visited several adjacent tribes of her worshippers. 
During her progress the sound of war was hushed, quarrels 
were suspended, arms laid aside, and the restless Germans 
had an opportunity of tasting the blessings of peace and 
harmony/ 5 The truce of God, so often and so ineffectually 
proclaimed by the clergy of the eleventh century, was an 
obvious imitation of this ancient custom. 66 

Rut the influence of religion was far more powerful. to 
inflame, than to moderate, the fierce passions of the Ger- 
mans. Interest and fanaticism often prompted its ministers 

63 The sacred wood, described with such sublime horror by Lucan, was in 
the neighborhood of Marseilles ; but there were many of the same kind in Ger- 

*» Tacit. Germania, c. 7. a id., c. 40. 

66 See Dr. Robertson's History of Charles V. vol. i. note 10. 

* The ancient Germans had shapeless idols, and, when they began to build 
more settled habitations, they raised also temples, such as that to the goddess 
Teufana. who presided ovev divination. See Adelung. Hist, of Anc. Geanaus, 
p. 296.— Q. 


to sanctify the most daring and the most unjust enterprises, 
by the approbation of Heaven, and full assurances of suc- 
cess. The consecrated standards, long revered in the groves 
of superstition, were placed in the front of the battle ; G7 
and the hostile army was devoted with dire execrations to 
the gods of war and of thunder. 68 In the faith of soldiers 
(and such were the Germans) cowardice is the most unpar- 
donable of sins. A brave man was the worthy favorite of 
their martial deities ; the wretch who had lost his shield 
was alike banished from the religious and civil assemblies 
of his countrymen. Some tribes of the north seem to have 
embraced the doctrine of transmigration, 09 others imagined 
a gross paradise of immortal drunkenness. 70 All agreed 
that a life spent in arms, and a glorious death in battle, were 
the best preparations for a happy futurity, either in this or 
in another world, -f— 

The immortality so vainly promised by the priests was, 
in some degree, conferred by the bards. That singular or- 
der of men has most deservedly attracted the notice of all 
who have attempted to investigate the antiquities of the 
Celts, the Scandinavians, and the Germans. Their genius 
and character, as well as the reverence paid to that important 
office, have been sufficiently illustrated. But we cannot so 
easily express, or even conceive, the enthusiasm of arms and 
glory which they kindled in the breast of their audience. 
Among a polished people a taste for poetry is rather an 
amusement of the fancy than a passion of the soul. And 
yet, when in calm retirement we peruse the combats de- 
scribed by Homer or Tasso, we are insensibly seduced by 
the fiction, and feel a momentary glow of martial ardor. 
But how faint, how cold is the sensation which a peaceful 
mind can receive from solitary study ! It Avas in the hour 
of battle, or in the feast of victory, that the bards cele- 
brated the glory of the heroes of ancient days, the ances- 
tors of those warlike chieftains, who listened with transport 
to their artless but animated strains. The view of arms 
and danger heightened the effect of the military song ; and 
the passions which it tended to excite, the desire of fame, 

67 Tacit. Germania. c. 7. These standards were only the heads of wild beasts. 

0:5 See an install* e of this custom. Tacit. Annal. xiii. 57. 

C9 Caesar Diodorus, and Lucan, seem to ascribe this doctrine to the Gauls, but 
M. Pelloutier (Histoire des Celtes, 1. iii. c. 18) labors to reduce their expressions 
to a more orthodox sense. 

>° Concerning this gross but alluring doctrine of the Edda, see Fable xx. in the 
curious versi n of that book, published by M. Mallet, in his Introduction to the 
History of Denmark. 


and the contempt of death, were the habitual sentiments of 
a German mind. 71 * 

Such was the situation and such were the manners of 
the ancient Germans. Their climate, their want of learn- 
ing, of arts, and of laws, their notions of honor, of gal- 
lantry, and of religion, their sense of freedom, impatience 
of peace, and thirst of enterprise, all contributed to form a 
people of military heroes. And yet we find that, during 
more than two hundred and fifty years that elapsed from 
the defeat of Varus to the reign of Deems, these formid- 
able barbarians made few considerable attempts, and not 
any material impression, on the luxurious and enslaved prov- 
inces of the empire. Their progress was checked by their 
want of arms and discipline, and their fury was diverted by 
the intestine divisions of ancient Germany. 

I. It has been observed, with ingenuity, and not without 
truth, that the command of iron soon gives a nation the 
command of gold. But the rude tribes of Germany, alike 
destitute of both those valuable metals, were reduced slowly 
to acquire, by their unassisted strength, the possession of 
the one as well as the other. The face of a German army 
displayed their poverty of iron. Swords and the longer 
kind of lances they could seldom use. Their framew (as 
they called them in their own language) were long spears 
headed with a sharp but narrow iron point, and which, as 
occasion required, they either darted from a distance, or 
pushed in close onset. With this spear and with a shield 
their cavalry was contented. A multitude of darts, scat- 
tered 72 with incredible force, were an additional resource 

71 See Tacit. Germ. c. 3. Diod Sicul. ]. v. Strabo. 1. iv. p. 197. The classical 
reader may remember the rank of Deniodocus in the Plucaeian court, and the 
ardor infused by Tyrtseus into the fainting Spartans. Yet there is little probabil- 
ity that the Greeks and the Germans were the same people. Much learned trifling 
might be spared, if our antiquarians would condescend to reflect, that similar 
manners will naturally be produced by similar situations. 

72 Mi-silia spargunt, Tacit. Germ. c. G. Either that historian used a vague ex- 
pression, or he meant that they were thrown at landom. 

* Besides these battle songs, the Germans sang at their festival banquets (Tac. 
Ann. i GT), and around the bodies of thejr slain heroes. King Theodoric, of the 
tribe ol the Goths, killed in a battle against Attila, was honored by songs while 
he was borne from the iield of battle. Jornand. s. c. 41. The same honor wa9 
paid to the remains of Attila. Ib'uJ. c. 49. According to some historians, the 
Gcrmins had songs also at their weddings ; but this appears to me inconsistent 
with their customs, in which marriage was no mo e than the purchase of a wife. 
Besides, there is but one instance of this, that of the Gothic king, Ataulph, who 
sang himself the nuptial hymn when he espoused Placidia, sister of the emperors 
Aicadius and Honorius (Olympiodor. p. 8). But this marriage was celebrated ac- 
cording to the Roman rites, of which the nuptial songs formed a part. Adelung, 
p. oS2. — G. 

Charlemagne i- said to have collected the national songs of the ancient Ger- 
mans. Eginhard, Vit. Car. Mag.— M. 


of the infantry. Their military dress, when they wore any, 
was nothing more than a loose mantle. A variety of colors 
was the only ornament of their wooden or osier shields. 
Few of the chiefs were distinguished by cuirasses, scarce 
any by helmets. Though the horses of Germany were 
neither beautiful, swift^ nor practised in the skilful evolu- 
tions of the Roman manege, several of the nations obtained 
renown by their cavalry ; but, in general, the principal 
strength of the Germans consisted in their infantry, 73 which 
was dntwn up in several deep columns, according to the 
distinction of tribes and families. Impatient of fatigue and 
delay, these half-armed warriors rushed to battle with dis- 
sonant shouts and disordered ranks; and sometimes, by the 
effort of native valor, prevailed over the constrained and 
more artificial bravery of the Roman mercenaries. But as 
the barbarians poured forth their whole souls on the first 
onset, they knew not how to rally or to retire. A repulse 
was a sure defeat ; and a defeat Avas most commonly total 
destruction. When we recollect the complete armor of the 
Roman soldiers, their discipline, exercises, evolutions, for- 
tified camps, and military engines, it appears a just matter 
of surprise, how the naked and unassisted valor of the bar- 
barians could dare to encounter, in the field, the strength 
of the legions, and the various troops of the auxiliaries, 
which seconded their operations. The contest was too 
unequal, till the introduction of luxury had enervated the 
vigor, and a spirit of disobedience and sedition had relaxed 
the discipline, of the Roman armies. The introduction of 
barbarian auxiliaries into those armies was a measure 
attended with very obvious dangers, as it might gradually 
instruct the Germans in the arts of war and of policy. 
Although they were admitted in small numbers and with 
the strictest precaution, the example of Civilis was proper 
to convince the Romans that the danger was not imagi* 
nary, and that their precautions were not always sufficient. 74 
During the civil wars that followed the death of Nero, that 
artful and intrepid Batavian, whom his enemies conde- 
scended to compare with Hannibal and Sertorius, 75 formed 
a great design of freedom and ambition. Eight Batavian 
cohorts, renowned in the wars of Britain and Italy, repaired 

ri It was their principal distinction from the Sarmatians, who generally fought 
on horseback. 

"- 1 The relation of this enterprise occupies a great part of the fourth and fifth 
books of the History of Tacitus, and is more remarkable for its eloquence than 
perspicuity. Sir Henry Saville has observed several inaccuracies. 

75 Tacit. Hist. iv. 13. Like them he had lost an eye. 


to his standard. He introduced an army of Germans into 
Gaul, prevailed on the powerful cities of Treves and Langres 
to embrace his cause, defeated the legions, destroyed their 
fortified camps, and employed against the Romans the 
military knowledge which he had acquired in their service. 
When at length, after an obstinate struggle, he yielded to 
the power of the empire, Civilis secured himself and his 
country by an honorable treaty. The Batavians still con- 
tinued to occupy the islands of the Rhine, 76 the allies, not 
the servants, of the Roman monarchy. 

II. The strength of ancient Germany appears formidable, 
when we consider the effects that might have been produced 
by its united effort. The wide extent of country might 
very possibly contain a million of warriors, as all who were 
of age to bear arms were of a temper to use them. But 
this fierce multitude, incapable of concerting or executing 
any plan of national greatness, Avas agitated by various and 
often hostile intentions. Germany was divided into more 
than forty independent states ; and, even in each state, the 
union of the several tribes was extremely loose and preca- 
rious. The barbarians were easily provoked ; they knew 
not how to forgive an injury, much less an insult ; their 
resentments were bloody and implacable. The casual dis- 
putes that so frequently happened in their tumultuous 
parties of hunting or drinking were sufficient to inflame 
the minds of whole nations ; the private fend of any con- 
siderable chieftains diffused itself among their followers 
and allies. To chastise the insolent, or to plunder the 
defenceless, were alike causes of war. The most formidable 
states of Germany affected to encompass their territories 
with a wide frontier of solitude and devastation. The 
awful distance preserved by their neighbors attested the 
terror of their arms, and in some measure defended them 
from the danger of unexpected incursions. 77 

" The Bructeri* (it is Tacitus who now speaks) were 
totally exterminated by the neighboring tribes, 78 provoked 

76 It was contained between the two branches of the old Rhine, as they sub- 
sisted before the face of the country was changed by art and nature. See Cluver. 
German. Antiq. 1 iii. c. 30, 37. 

'•" Caesar de Bell. Gal. 1. vi. 23. 

78 They are mentioned, however, in the ivth and vth centuries by Xazarius, 
Ammianus, Claudian, &c, as a tribe of Franks. See Cluver. Germ. Antiq. i. iii. 
C. 13. 

* The Bructeri were a non-Suevian tribe, who dwelt below the duchies of 
Oldenburgh and Lauenburgh, on the borders of the Lippe, and in the Hartz 
Mountains. It was among them that the priestess Velleda obtained her renown, 
— G. 


by their insolence, allured by the hopes of spoil, and perhaps 
inspired by the tutelar deities of the empire. Above sixty 
thousand barbarians were destroyed ; not by the Roman 
arms, but in our sight, and for our entertainment. May 
the nations, enemies of Rome, ever preserve this enmity to 
each other ! We have now attained the utmost verge of 
prosperity, 73 and have nothing left to demand of fortune, 
except the discord of the barbarians." 80 — These sentiments, 
less worthy of the humanity than of the patriotism of Tacitus, 
express the invariable maxims of the policy of his country- 
men. They deemed it a much safer expedient to divide 
than to combat the barbarians, from whose defeat they 
could derive neither honor nor advantage. The money and 
negotiations of Rome insinuated themselves into the heart 
of Germany; and every art of seduction was used with 
dignity to conciliate those nations whom their proximity 
to the Rhine or Danube might render the most useful 
friends as well as the most troublesome enemies. Chiefs of 
renown and power were nattered by the most trilling 
presents, which they received cither as marks of distinction, 
or as the instruments of luxury. In civil dissensions the 
weaker faction endeavored to strengthen its interest by 
entering into secret connections with the governors of the 
frontier provinces. Every quarrel among the Germans was 
fomented by the intrigues of Rome ; and every plan of 
union and public good was defeated by the stronger bias of 
private jealousy and interest. 81 

The general conspiracy which terrified the Romans under 
the reign of Marcus Antoninus comprehended almost all 
the nations of Germany, and even Sarmatia, from the mouth 
of the Rhine to that of the Danube. 82 It is impossible for 
us to determine whether this hasty confederation w T as formed 
by necessity, by reason, or by passion ; but w r e may rest 
assured that the barbarians were neither allured by the 
indolence nor provoked by the ambition, of the Roman 
monarch. This dangerous invasion required all the firm- 
ness and vigilance of Marcus. He fixed generals of ability 

79 Urgentibus is the common reading ; but good sense, Lipsius, and some MSS. 
declare for I'eri/intlbus. 

*> Tacit, Germauia, c. 33. The pious Abbe de la Bleterie is very angry with 
Tacitus, talks of the devil, who was a murderer from the beginning, &c, &c. 

u Many truces of this policy may be discovered in Tacitus and Dion ; and 
many more may be inferred from the principles of human nature. 

l - Hist. Aug. p. 31. Ammian. Marcellin. 1. xxxi. c. 5. Aurel. Victor. The 
emperor Marcus was reduced to sell the rich furniture of the palace, and to enlist 
Blave.s and robbers. 



in the several stations of attack, and assumed in person the 
conduct of the most important province on the upper 
Danube. After a long and doubtful conflict, the spirit of 
the barbarians Avas subdued. The Quadi and the 3Iarco- 
manni, 83 who had taken the lead in the war, were the most 
severely punished in its catastrophe. They were com- 
manded to retire five miles 84 from their own banks of the 
Danube, and to deliver up the flower of the youth, who 
were immediately sent into Britain, a remote island, where 
they might be secure as hostages, and useful as soldiers. 85 
On the frequent rebellions of the Quadi and Marcomanni, 
the irritated emperor resolved to reduce their country into 
the form of a province. His designs were disappointed by 
death. This formidable league, however, the only one th:.t 
appears in the two first centuries of the Imperial history, 
was entirely dissipated, without leaving any traces behind 
in Germany. 

In the course of this introductory chapter, we have con- 
fined ourselves to the p*eneral outlines of the manners of 
. . . ... 

Germany, without attempting to describe or to distinguish 

the various tribes which filled that great country in the 
time of Caesar, of Tacitus, or of Ptolemy. As the ancient, or 
as new tribes successively present themselves in the series 
of this history, we shall concisely mention their origin, their 
situation, and their particular character. Modern nations 
are fixed and permanent societies, connected among them- 
selves by laws and government, bound to their native soil by 
art and agriculture. The German tribes were voluntary 
and fluctuating associations of soldiers, almost of savages. 
The same territory often changed its inhabitants in the tide 
of conquest and emigration. The same communities, unit- 
ing in a plan of defence or invasion, bestowed a new title 
on their new confederacy. The dissolution of an ancient 
confederacy restored to the independent tribes their pecu- 
liar but long-forgotten appellation. A victorious state often 

83 The Mareomanni, a colony, who, from the hanks of the Rhine, occupied 
Bohemia and Moravia, had once erected a great and formidable monarchy under 
their king Maroboduus. See Strabo, 1. vii. [p. 290]. Veil. Pat. ii. 108. Tacit. 
Artnal. ii. 63.* 

M Mr. Wotton (History of Borne, p. 166) increases the prohibition to ten times 
the distance. His reasoning is specious, but not conclusive. Five miles were 
sufficient for a fortified barrier. 

86 Dion, 1. lxxi. and lxxii. 

* The mark-mannen, the March-men or borderers. There seems little doubt 
that this was an appellation, rather than a proper name, of a part of the great 
Suevian or Teutonic race. — M. 


communicated its own name to a vanquished people. Some- 
times crowds of volunteers nocked from all parts to the 
standard of a favorite leader ; his camp became their 
country, and some circumstance of the enterprise soon 
gave a common denomination to the mixed multitude. 
The distinctions of the ferocious invaders were perpetually 
varied by themselves, and confounded by the astonished 
subjects of the Roman empire. 86 

Wars and the administration of public affairs are the 
principal subjects of history; but the number of persons 
interested in these busy scenes is very different, according 
to the different condition of mankind. In great monarchies 
millions of obedient subjects pursue their useful occupations 
in peace and obscurity. The attention of the writer, as 
well as of the reader, is solely confined to a court, a capital, 
a regular army, and the districts which happen to be the 
occasional scene of military operations. But a state of 
freedom and barbarism, the season of civil commotions, or 
the situation of petty republics, 87 raises almost every mem- 
ber of the community into action, and consequently into 
notice. The irregular divisions, and the restless motions, 
of the people of Germany dazzle our imagination, and seem 
to multiply their numbers. The profuse enumeration of 
kings and warriors, of armies and nations, inclines us to 
forget that the same objects are continually repeated under 
a variety of appellations, and that the most splendid appel- 
lations have been frequently lavished on the most inconsid- 
erable objects. 

80 See an excellent dissertation on the origin and migrations of nations, in the 
Memoires de l'Academie des Inscriptions, tom. xviii. pp. 48-71. It is seldom that 
the antiquarian ami the philosopher are so happil blended. 

8T Should we suspect that Athens contained only 21.000 citizens, and Sparta 
no more than 30,000 ? See Hume and Wallace on the number of mankind in an- 
cient and modern times.* 

* This number, though too positively stated, is probably not far wrong, as an 
average estimate. On the subject of Athenian population, see St. Croix, Acad, 
des Inscrip. xlviii. Boackh, Public Economy of Athene, i. 47. Eng. T- ans. 
Fynes Clinton, Fasti Hellenici, vol. i. p. 381. The latter author estimates the 
citizens of Sparta at 33,000 — M. 






From the great secular games celebrated by Philip, to 
the death of the emperor Gallienus, there elapsed twenty 
years of shamo and misfortune. During that calamitous 
period, every instant of time was marked, every province 
of the Roman world was afflicted, by barbarous invaders 
and military tyrants, and the ruined empire seemed to 
approach the last and fatal moment of its dissolution. 
The confusion of the times, and the scarcity of authentic 
memorials, oppose equal difficulties to the historian who 
attempts to preserve a clear and unbroken thread of narra- 
tion. Surrounded with imperfect fragments, always con- 
cise, often obscure, and sometimes contradictory, he is 
reduced to collect, to compare, and to conjecture : and 
though he ought never to place his conjectures in the rank 
of facts, yet the knowledge of human nature, and of the 
sure operation of its fierce and unrestrained passions, might, 
on some occasions, supply the' want of historical materials. 

There is not, for instance, any difficulty in conceiving 
that the successive murders of so many emperors had 
loosened all the ties of allegiance between the prince and 
people; that all the generals of Philip were disposed to 
imitate the example of their master ; and that the caprice 
of armies long since habituated to frequent and violent 
revolutions might every day raise to the throne the most 
obscure of their fellow-soldiers. History can only add, 
that the rebellion against the emperor Philip broke out in 
the summer of the year two hundred and forty-nine, among 
the legions of Maesia; and that a subaltern officer, 1 named 
Marin us, was the object of their seditious choice. Philip 
was alarmed. He dreaded lest the treason of the Maesian 
army should prove the first spark of a general conflagration. 

1 The expression used by Zosimus and Zonaras may signify that Marinus com- 
manded a century, a cohort, or a legion. 


Distracted with the consciousness of his guilt and of his 
danger, lie communicated the intelligence to the senate. A 
gloomy silence prevailed, the effect of fear, and perhaps of 
disaffection ; till at length Decius, one of the assembly, 
assuming a spirit worthy of his noble extraction, ventured 
to discover more intrepidity than the emperor seemed to 
possess. Pie treated the whole business with contempt, as 
a hasty and inconsiderate tumult, and Philip's rival as a 
phantom of royalty, who in a very few days would be de- 
stroyed by the same inconstancy that had created him. The 
speedy completion of the prophecy inspired Philip with a 
just esteem for so able a counsellor; and Decius appeared 
to him the only person capable of restoring peace and dis- 
cipline to an army whose tumultuous spirit did not imme- 
diately subside alter the murder of Marin us. Decius, 2 who 
long resisted his own nomination, seems to have insinuated 
the danger of presenting a leader of merit to the angry and 
apprehensive minds of the soldiers ; and his prediction was 
again confirmed by the event. The legions of Ma?sia fo! ced 
their judge to become their accomplice. They left him only 
the alternative of death or the purple. His subsequent 
conduct, after that decisive measure, was unavoidable. He 
conducted, or followed, his army to the confines of Italy, 
whither Philip, collecting all his force to repel the formid- 
able competitor whom he had raised up, advanced to meet 
him. The Imperial troops were superior in number; but 
the rebels formed an army of veterans, commanded by an 
able and experienced leader.- Philip was either killed in 
the battle or put to death a few days afterwards at Verona. 
His son and associate in the empire was massacred at Rome 
by the Praetorian guards; and the victorious Decius, with 
more favorable circumstances than the ambition of that a^e 
can usually plead, was universally acknowledged by the 
senate and provinces. It is reported that, immediately 
after his reluctant acceptance of the title of Augustus, he 
had assured Philip, by a private message, of his innocence 
and loyalty, solemnly protesting that, on his arrival in 
Italy, lie would resign the Imperial ornaments, and return 
to the condition of an obedient subject. His professions 

2 His birth at Bubalia, a little village in Pannonia (Eutrop. ix. Victor, in 
Ca;s;uib. et Epitom.), seems to contradict, unless it was merely accidental, his 
Supposed descent from the Decii. Six hundred years had bestowed nobility on 
the Decii ; bit at the commencement of that period, they were only plebeians of 
merit, and among the first who shared the consulship with the haughty patricians. 
Plebeise Deriorum animae, &c. Juvenal, Sat. viii. 254. See the spirited speech 
of Decius, inLivy, x. D, 10. 


might be sincere ; but in the situation where fortune had 
placed him, it was scarcely possible that lie could either 
forgive or be forgiven. 3 

The emperor Decius had employed a few months in the 
works of peace and the administration of justice, when he 
was summoned to the banks of the Danube by the invasion 
of the Goths. This is the first considerable occasion in 
which history mentions that great people, who alter ward s 
broke the Roman power, sacked the Capitol, and reigned in 
Gaul, Spain, and Italy. So memorable Avas the part which 
they acted in the subversion of the Western empire, that the 
name of Goths is frequently but improperly used as a gen- 
eral appellation of rude and warlike barbarism. 

In the beginning of the sixth century, and after the con- 
quest of Italy, the Goths, in possession of present greatness, 
very naturally indulged themselves in the prospect of past 
and of future glory. They wished to preserve the memory 
of their ancestors, and to transmit to posterity their own 
achievements. The principal minister of the court of 
Ravenna, the learned Cassiodorus, gratified the inclination 
of the conquerors in a Gothic history, which consisted of 
twelve books, now reduced to the imperfect abridgment of 
Jornandes. 4 These writers passed with the most artful con- 
ciseness over the misfortunes of the nation, celebrated its 
successful valor, and adorned the triumph with many Asi- 
atic trophies, that more properly belonged to the people of 
Scythia. On the faith of ancient songs, the uncertain, but 
the only memorials of barbarians, they deduced the first 
origin of the Goths from the vast island, or peninsula, of 
Scandinavia. 5 * That extreme country of the North was 

3 Zosimus, 1. i. p. 20, c. 22. Zonaras, 1. xii. p. 021, edit. Louvre. 

4 See the prefaces of Cassiodorus and Jornandes : it is surprising that the lat- 
ter should be omitted in the excellent edition, published by Grotius, of the Goihie 

5 On the authority of Ablavius, Jornandes quotes some old Gothic chronicles 
in verse. De lleb. Geticis, c. 4. 

* The Goths have inhabited Scandinavia, but it was not their original habita- 
tion. This great nation was anciently of the Suevian race : it occupied, in the 
time of Tachus, and long before, Mecklenburgh. Poinerania, Southern Prussia, 
and the north-west of Poland. A little before "the birth of J. G, and in the thst 
years of that century, they belonged to the kingdom of Marbod, king of the Mai- 
comcn.ii ; but Cotvvalda, a young Gothic prince, delivered them from that tyran- 
ny, and estaulished his own power over the kingdom of the Marcomanni, already 
much weakened by the victories of Tiberius. The power of the Goth.- at that 
time must have been great ; it was probably from them that the Sinus Codanus 
(the Baltic) took this name. as it was afterwards called Ma: e Suevicum. and .Mare 
Venedicum, during the superiority of the proper Suevi and the Venedi. The 
epoch in which the Goths passed into Scandinavia is unknown. See Adelung, 
Hist, of Alio, Germany, p. 200. Gatterer, Hist. Univ. 458.— G. 

M. St. Martin observes that the Scandinavian descent of the Goths rests on the 


not unknown to the conquerors of Italy : the ties of ancient 
consanguinity had been strengthened by recent offices of 
friendship ; and a Scandinavian king had cheerfully abdi- 
cated his savage greatness, that he might pass the remainder 
of his days in the peaceful and polished court of Ravenna. 6 
Many vestiges, which cannot be ascribed to the arts of pop- 
ular vanity, attest the ancient residence of the Goths in the 
countries beyond the Baltic. From the time of the geog- 
rapher Ptolemy, the southern part of Sweden seems to 
have continued in the possession of the less enterprising 
remnant of the nation, and a large territory is even at pres- 
ent divided into east and west Gothland. During the middle 
ages (from the ninth to the twelfth century), whilst Chris- 
tianity was advancing with a slow r progress into the North, the 
Goths and the Swedes composed two distinct and sometimes 
hostile members of the same monarchy. 7 The latter of these 
two names has prevailed without extinguishing the former. 
The Swedes, who might well be satisfied with their own 
fame in arms, have, in every age, claimed the kindred glory 
of the Goths. In a moment of discontent against the court 
of Rome, Charles the Twelfth insinuated that his victorious 
troops were not degenerated from their brave ancestors, who 
had already subdued the mistress of the world. 8 

Tiil the end of the eleventh century a celebrated temple 
subsisted at Upsal, the most considerable town of the Swedes 

c Jornandes, c. 3. 

7 See in the Prolegomena of Grotius some large extracts from Adam of Bre- 
men and Saxo-Granwiaticus. The former wrote in the year 1077, the latter 
flourished about the year 1200. 

8 Voltaire, Histoire de Charles XII.. 1. iii. When the Austrians desired the 
aid of the court of Rome against Gustavus Adolphus, they always represented 
that conqueror as the lineal successor of Alaric. Harte's History of Gustavus, 
vol. ii. p. 123. 

authority of Jornandes, who professed to derive it from the traditions of the 
Goths, lie is supported by Procopius and Paulus Diaconus. Yet the Goths are 
unquestionably the same with the Getie of the earlier historians. St. Martin, note 
on Le Beau, Hist, du bas Empire, iii. 324. The identity of the Getre and Goths 
is by no means generally admitted. On the whole, they seem to be one vast 
branch of the Indo-Teutonie lace, who spread irregularly towards the north of 
Europe, and at different periods, and in different regions, came in contact with 
the more civilized nations of the south. At this period, there seems to have been 
a reflux of these Gothic tribes from the North. 

Malte Bruu considers that there are strong grounds for receiving the Islandie 
traditions commented by the Dani-h Varro, M. Suhm. From these, and the 
voyage of Pytheas, which Malte Brun considers genuine, the Goths were in pos- 
session of Scandinavia, Ey-Gothland, 250 years before J. C., and of a tract on the 
con inent (Reid-Gothland) between the mouths of the Vistula and the Oder. In 
their southern migration, they followed the co"rse of the Vistula ; afterwards, of 
the Dnieper. Malte Bran, Geoor. i. p. 3is7, edit. 1832. Geijer, the historian of 
Sweden, ably maintains the Scandinavian origin of the Goths. The Gothic lan- 
guage, according to Bopp, is the link between the Sanscrit and the modem Teu- 
tonic dialects. : " I think that I am reading Sanscrit when I am reading Ulphilas:" 
Bopp Conjugations System der Sanscrit Sprache, preface, p. x.— M. • 

302 tiii<: decline and fall 

and Goths. It was enriched with the gold which the Scan- 
dinavians had acquired in their piratical adventures, and 
sanctified by the uncouth representations of the three prin- 
cipal deities, the god of war, the goddess of generation, and 
the god of thunder. In the general festival, that was solem- 
nized every ninth year, nine animals of every species (with- 
out excepting the human) were sacrificed, and their bleeding 
bodies suspended in the sacred grove adjacent to the temple. 9 
The only traces that now subsist of this barbaric superstition 
are contained in the Edda,* a system of mythology, compiled 
in Iceland about the thirteenth century, and studied by the 
learned of Denmark and Sweden, as the most valuable re- 
mains of their ancient traditions. 

Notwithstanding the mysterious obscurity of the Edda, 
we can easily distinguish two persons confounded under the 
name of Odin ; the god of war, and the great legislator of 
Scandinavia. The latter, the Mahomet of the North, insti- 
tuted a religion adapted to the climate and to the people. 
Numerous tribes on either side of the Baltic were subdued 
by the invincible valor of Odin, by his persuasive eloquence, 
and by the fame which he acquired of a most skilful magi- 
cian. The faith that he had propagated, during a long and 
prosperous life, he confirmed by a voluntary death. Appre- 
hensive of the ignominious approach of disease and infirmity, 
he resolved to expire as became a warrior. In a solemn 
assembly of the Swedes and Goths, he wounded himself in 
nine mortal places, hastening away (as he asserted with his 
dying voice) to prepare the feast of heroes in the palace of 
the God of war. 10 

The native and proper habitation of Odin is distinguished 
by the appellation of As-gard. The happy resemblance of 
that name with As-burg, or As-of, 11 words of a similar sig- 
nification, has given rise to an historical system of so pleas- 
ing a contexture, that we could almost wish to persuade 
ourselves of its truth. It is supposed that Odin was the 
chief of a tribe of barbarians which dwelt on the banks of the 

See Adam of Bremen in Grotii Prolegomenis, p. 105. The temple of Upsal 
•was destroyed by lngo, king of Sweden, who began his reign in the year 107.3. and 
about fourscore years afterwards a Christian cathedra) wa.; erected on its ruins. 
See Dalin's History of Sweden, in the Bibliotheque llaisonnee. 

11 Mallet, Introduction a. l'f Iistoire du Danneniarc. 

11 Mallet, c. iv. p. 55. has collected from Strabo, Pliny, Ptolemy, and Stephanus 
Byzantiuus, the vestiges of such a city and people. 

* The Eddas have at length been made accessible to European scholars by the 
completion of the publication of the Saeinnndiue Edda by the Arna Magnajan 
Comruis ion, in 3 vols. -ilo.. with a eopioas lexicon of northern mythology.— M. 


Lake Mseotis, till the fall of Mithridates and the arms of 
Pompey menaced the North with servitude. That Odin, 
yielding with indignant fury to a power he was unable to 
resist, conducted his tribe from the frontiers of the Asiatic 
Sarmatia into Sweden, with the great design of forming, in 
that inaccessible retreat of freedom, a religion and a people 
which, in some remote age, might be subservient to his im- 
mortal revenge ; when his invincible Goths, armed with 
martial fanaticism, should issue in numerous swarms from 
the neighborhood of the Polar circle, to chastise the oppres- 
sors of mankind. 1 ' 2 

If so many successive generations of Goths were capable 
of preserving a faint tradition of their Scandinavian origin, 
we must not expect, from such unlettered barbarians, any 
distinct account of the time and circumstances of their emi- 
gration. To cross the Baltic was an easy and natural attempt. 
The inhabitants of Sweden were masters of a sufficient num- 
ber of large vessels with oars, 13 and the distance is little more 
than one hundred miles from Carlscroon to the nearest ports 
of Pomerania and Prussia. Here, at length, we land on firm 
and historic ground. At least as early as the Christian sera, 1 * 
and as late as the age of the Antonines, 15 the Goths were es- 
tablished towards the mouth of the Vistula, and in that fer- 
tile province where the commercial cities of Thorn, Elbing, 
Konio-sberjj: and Dantzick, were lon^ afterwards founded. 10 

] s Thi3 wonderful expedition of Odin, which, by deducing the enmity of the 
Goths and Romans from to memorable ;i cause, might supply the noble ground- 
work of an epic p em, cannot : afely be received a • authentic history. Accord- 
ing to the obvious Sense of the Pdda, and the interpretation of the most skilful 
crUies, As-gard, instead of denoting a real < ity of the Asiatic Sarmatia, is the lic- 
titions appellation of the mystic abode of the gods, the Olympus of Scandinavia ;' 
from whence (he prophet wa; supposed lo descend, when he announced his new 
religion to the Gothic nations, v»ho were already seated in the southern pans of 

M Tacit Germania, c. 44.. 

11 Tacit. Annal. ii. G_'. If we could yield a firm assent to the navigations of 
Pytheas of Marseilles, we must .allow that the Gotus had passed the Baltic at 
least three hundred years before Christ. 

'< Ptolemy, 1. ii. 

'*• By the German colonies who followed the arms of the Teutorie knights. 
The con piest a id conversion of Prussia were completed by those adventurers 
in the thirteenth century. 

* A curious letter may be consulted on this subject from the Swede, Ihrc, 
counsellor ii the Chancery of Upsal, printed at Upsal by Kdman, in 1772, and 
translated into German bv M. Schlbzer. Gottingen, printed for Dieterkht, 1779. 

Gibbon, at a later period of his work, recanted his opinion of the truth of this 
expedition of Odin. The Asiatic origin of the Goths i. almost certain from the 
affinity of their language to the Sausv tit r.ncl Persian ; but their northern migra- 
tion in st have taiicn place long before the period of history. The transforma- 
tion of the d-i'y Odin into a warrior <.hi ftain, and the whole legend of his estab- 
lishment in Scandinavia, is probablv n theory of the northern writers, when all 
mythology was reduced to hero- Worship. — M. 


Westward of the Gotlis, the numerous tribes of the Vandals 
were spread along the banks of the Oder, and the sea-coast 
of Pomerania and Mecklenburgh. A striking resemblance 
of manners, complexion, religion, and language, seemed to 
indicate that the Vandals and the Goths were originally one 
great people. 17 The latter appear to have been subdivided 
into Ostrogoths, Visigoths, and Gepidaa. 18 The distinction 
among the Vandals was more strongly marked by the inde- 
pendent names of Heruli, Burgundians, Lombards, and a 
variety of other petty states, many of whieh, in a future age, 
expanded themselves into powerful monarchies. f 

In the age of the Antonines the Goths were still seated 

17 Pliny (Hist. Natur. iv. 14) and Procopius (in Bell. Vandal. 1. i. c. 1) agree in 
this opinion. They lived in distant ages, and possessed different means of in- 
vestigating the truth. 

13 The Ostro and Vlsi, the eastern and western Goths, obtained those denom- 
inations from their original seats in Scandinavia.* In all their future marches 
and settlements they preserved, with their names, the same relative situation. 
When they first d -parted from Sweden, the infant colony was contained in three 
vessels. The third, being a heavy sailer, lagged behind, and the crew, which 
afterwards swelled into a nation, received from that circumstance the appellation 
of Gepidae or Loiterers. Jornandes, c. 17. 

* It was not in Scandinavia that the Goths were divided into Ostrogoths and 
Visigoths ; that division took place after their irruption into Dacia in the third 
century ; those who came from Mecklenburgh and Pomerania were called Visi- 
goths ; those who came from the south of Prussia, and the no:th-west of Poland, 
c. died themselves Ostrogoths. Adelung, Hist. All. p. 202. Gatterer, Hist. Univ. 
431.— G. 

t This opinion is by no means probable. The Vandals and the Goths equally 
belonged to the great division of the Suevi, but the two tribes were very differ- 
ent. Those who have treated on this part of history, appear to me to have 
neglected to remark that the ancients almost always gave the name of the do- 
minant and conquering people to all the weaker and conquered races. So Pliny 
calls Vindeli, Vandals, all the people of the north-east of Europe, because at that 
epoch the Vandals were doubtless the conquering tribe. Caesar, on the contrary, 
ranges under the name of Suevi, many of the tribes whom Pliny reckons as Van- 
dals, because the Suevi, properly so called, were then the most powerful tribe in 
Germany. When the Goths, become in their turn conquerors, had subjugated 
the nations whom they encountered on their way, these nations lost their name 
with their liberty, and became of Gothic origin. The Vandals themselves were 
then con-idered as Goths; the Heruli, the Gepida?, &<?., suffered the same fate. 
A common origin was thus attributed to tribes who had only been united by the 
conquests of some dominant nation, and this confusion has given rise to a num- 
ber of historical errors. — G. 

M. St. Martin has a learned note (to Le Beau, v. 261) on the origin of the Van- 
dals. The difficulty appears to be in rejecting the close analogy of the name with 
the Vend or Wendish race, who were of Selavonian, not of Suevian or German 
origin. M. St. Martin supposes that the different races spread from the head of 
the Adriatic to the Baltic, and even the Veneti, on the shores of the Adriatic, the 
Vindelici, the tribes which gave their name to Vindobona. Viiuloduna, Vindo- 
niss i, were branches of the same stock with the Selavonian Venedi. who at one 
time gave their name to the Baltic ; that they all spoke dialects of the Wendish 
language, which still prevails in Carinthia, Carniola, part of Bohemia, and Lusa- 
tia, and is hardly extinct in Mecklenburgh and Pomerania. The Vandal race, 
once so fearf ally celebrated in the annals of mankind, has so utterly perished 
from the face of the earth, that we are not aware that any vestiges of their lan- 
guage can be traced, so as t > throw light on the disputed question of their Ger- 
man, their Selavonian, or independent origin. The weight of ancient authority 
seems against M. St. Martin's opinion. Compare, on the Vandals, Malte Brun.i. 
394. Also Gibbon's note, c. xli. it. 3$.— M. . ... . '"..*• 


in Prussia. About the reign of Alexander Se verus the Roman 
province of Dacia had already experienced their proximity 
by frequent and destructive inroads. 19 In this interval, there- 
fore, of about seventy years we must place the second migra- 
tion of the Goths from the Baltic to the Euxine ; but the 
cause that produced it lies concealed among the various 
motives which actuate the conduct of unsettled barbari- 
ans. Either a pestilence or a famine, a victory or a defeat, 
an oracle of the gods or the eloquence of a daring leader, 
were sufficient to impel the Gothic arms on the milder cli- 
mates of the south. Besides the influence of a martial reli- 
gion, the numbers and spirit of the Goths were equal to the 
most dangerous adventurers. The use of. round bucklers 
and short swords rendered them formidable in a close en- 
gagement; the manly obedience which they yielded to he- 
reditary kings gave uncommon union and stability to their 
councils: 20 and the renowned Amala, the hero of that age, 
and the tenth ancestor of Theodoric, king of Italy, enforced, 
by ascendant of personal merit, the prerogative of his birth, 
which he derived from the Anses, or demigods of the Gothic 
nation. 21 

The fame of a great enterprise excited the bravest war- 
riors from all the Vandalic states of Germany, many of whom 
are seen a few years afterwards combating under the com- 
mon standard of the Goths. 22 The first motions of the em- 
igrants carried them to the banks of the Prypec, a river uni- 
versally conceived by the ancients to be the southern branch 
of the Borysthenes. 23 The windings of that great stream 
through the plains of Poland and Russia gave a direction to 
their line of march, and a constant supply of fresh water and 
pasturage to their numerous herds of cattle. They followed 
the unknown course of the river, confident in their valor, 
and careless of whatever power might oppose their progress. 
The Bastarnoe and the Venedi*were the first who presented 
themselves ; and the flower of their youth, either from choice 

10 See a fragment of Peter Patricius in the Excerpta Legationum ; and with 
regard to its probable date, sec Tillcmont, Hist, des Enipereurs, torn. iii. p. 31G. 

-» Omnium harum gentium insigne, rotunda scuta, breves gladii. et erga reges 
obsequium. Tacit. Germania, c. 43. The Goths probably acquired their iron "by 
the commerce of amber. 

21 Jornandes. c. 13, 14. 

23 The Heruli, and the Uregundi or Burgundi, are particularly mentioned. 
See Mascou's History of the Germans, 1. v. A passage in the Augustan Histo.y, 
p. 28, seems to allude to this great emiaration. The Maivomnnnic war was partly 
occasioned by the pressure of barbarous tribes, who fled before the arms of more 
northern barbarians. 

2; D'Anville, Geographie Ancienne, and the third part of his incomparable 
map of Europe. 




or compulsion, increased the Gothic army. The Bastarnce 
dwelt on the northern side of the Carpathian Mountains : 
the immense tract of land that separated the Bastarnae from 
the savages of Finland was possessed, or rather wasted, by 
the Venedi; 24 we have some reason to believe that the first 
of these nations, which distinguished itself in the Macedo- 
nian war, 25 and was afterwards divided into the formidable 
tribes of the Peucini, the Borani, the Carpi, &c, derived its 
origin from the Germans.* With better authority, a Sar- 
matian extraction may be assigned to the Venedi, who 
rendered themselves so famous in the middle ages. 26 But the 
confusion of blood and manners on that doubtful frontier 
often perplexed the most accurate observers. 17 As the Goths 
advanced near the Euxine Sea, they encountered a purer 
race of Sarmatians, the Jazyges, the Alani, $ and the Roxo- 
lani; and they were probably the first Germans who saw the 
mouths of the Borysthenes and of the Tanais. If we inquire 
into the characteristic marks of the people of Germany and 
of Sarmatia, we shall discover that those two great portions 
of human kind were principally distinguished by fixed huts 
or movable tents, by a close dress or flowing garments, by 
the marriage of one or of several wives, by a military force, 
consisting, for the most part, either of infantry or cavalry ; and 
above all, by the use of the Teutonic, or of the Selavoninu 
language ; the last of which has been diffused by conquest 
from the confines of Italy to the neighborhood of Japan. 

w Tacit. Germania, c. 46. 25 Cluver. Germ. Antiqua, 1. iii. e. 43. 

23 The Venedi, the Stavi, and the Antes, were the three great tribes of the 
same people. Jornandes, c. 24. t 

2 <" Tacitus most assuredly deserves that title, and even his cautious suspense is 
a proof of his diligent inquiries. 

* The Bastarnre cannot be considered original inhabitants of Germany; Strabo 
and Tacitus appear to doubt it ; Pliny alone calls them Germans; Ptolemy and 
Dion treat them a* Scythians, a vague appellation at this period of history ; Livy, 
Plutarch, and Diodorus Siculus, call tlfeni Gauls, and this is the most probable 
opinion. They descended from the Gauls who entered Germany under Signoesus. 
They are always found associated with other Gaulish tribes, such as the Boii, 
the Taurisci, &c, and not to the German tribes. The names of their chiefs or 
piinces, Chlonix, Chlondicus, Deldon, are not Cennan names. Those who were 
settled in the island of Peuce in the Danube, took the name of Peiuini. 

Ths Carpi appear in 237 as a Suevian tribe who had made an irruption into 
Ma?sia. Afterwards they reappear under the Ostrogoths, with whom ihey were 
probably blended. Adelung, pp. 236, 27S.— G . 

t They formed the great Sclavonian nation. — G. 

t Jac. Reineggs supposed tnat he had found, in the mountains of Caucasus, 
some descendants of the Alani. The Ta tars call tnem Edeki-Alan ; they speak 
a peculiar dialect of the ancient language of the Tartars of Caucasus. See J. 
Reineggs' Descr. of Caucasus, pp. 11, 13, — G. 

According to Klaproth, they are the Ossetes of the pressnt day in Mount Cau- 
casus, and were the same with the Albanians of antiquity. Klaproth, Tableaux 
Hist, de l'Asie, p. 180.— M. 


The Goths were now in possession of the Ukraine, a 
country of considerable extent and uncommon fertility, in- 
tersected with navigable rivers, which, from either side, dis- 
charge themselves into the Borysthenes ; and interspersed 
with large and lofty forests of oak. The plenty of game 
and fish, the innumerable bee-hives deposited in the hollow 
of old trees, and in the cavities of rocks, and forming, even 
in that rude age, a valuable branch of commerce, the size 
of the battle, the temperature of the air, the aptness of the 
soil for every species of grain, and the luxuriancy of the 
vegetation, all displayed the liberality of Nature, and 
tempted the industry of man. 28 But the Goths withstood 
all these temptations, and still adhered to a life of idleness, 
of poverty, and of rapine. 

The Scythian hordes, which, towards the east, bordered 
on the new settlements of the Goths, presented nothing to 
their arms, except the doubtful chance of an unprofitable 
victory. But the prospect of the Roman territories was far 
more alluring ; and the fields of Dacia were covered with 
rich harvests, sown by the hands of an industrious, and ex- 
posed to be gathered by those of a warlike, people. It is 
probable that the conquests of Trajan, maintained by his 
successors less for any real advantage than for ideal dig- 
nity, had contributed to weaken the empire on that side. 
The new and unsettled province of Dacia was neither strong 
enough to resist, nor rich enough to satiate, the rapacious- 
ness of the barbarians. As long as the remote banks of the 
Dniester were considered as the boundary of the Roman 
power, the fortifications of the Lower Danube were more 
carelessly guarded, and the inhabitants of Maesia lived in 
supine security, fondly conceiving themselves at an inacces- 
sible distance from any barbarian invaders. The irruptions 
of the Goths, under the reign of Philip, fatally convinced 
them of their mistake. The king, or leader, of that fierce 
nation, traversed with contempt the province of Dacia, and 
passed both the Dniester and the Danube without encounter- 
ing any opposition capable of retarding his progress. The 
relaxed discipline of the Roman troops betrayed the most 
important posts, where they were stationed, and the fear of 
deserved punishment induced great numbers of them to en- 

23 Oenealogical History of the Tartars, p. 593. Mr. Bell (vol. ii. p. 379) traversed 
the Ukraine, in his journey from Petersburgh to Constantinople. The modern 
face of tli3 country is a just representation of the ancient, since, in the hands of 
the Cossacks, it still remains in a state of nature. 


list under the Gothic standard. The various multitude of 
barbarians appeared, at length, under the walls of Mareian- 
opolis, a city built by Trajan m honor of his sister, and at 
that time the capital of the second Maesia. 29 The inhabitants 
consented to ransom their lives and property by the payment 
of a large sum of money, and the invaders retreated back into 
their deserts, animated, rather than satisfied, with the first 
success of their arms against an opulent but feeble country. 
Intelligence was soon transmitted to the emperor Decius, 
that Cniva, king of the Goths, had passed the Danube a 
second time, with more considerable forces ; that his nu- 
merous detachments scattered devastation over the province 
of Maesia, whilst the main body of the army, consisting of 

J J %,- ' CD 

seventy thousand Germans and Sarmatians, a force equal 
to the most daring achievements, required the presence of 
the Roman monarch, and the exertion of his military 

Decius found the Goths engaged before jNTicopolis, on 
the Jatrus, one of the many monuments of Trajan's vic- 
tories. 30 On his approach they raised the siege, but with a 
design only of marching away to a conquest of greater im- 
portance, the siege of Philippopolis, a city of Thrace, 
founded by the father of Alexander, near the foot of Mount 
Haeinus. 31 Decius followed them through a difficult coun- 
try, and by forced marches ; but when he imagined himself 
at a considerable distance from the rear of the Goths, Cniva 
turned with rapid fury on his pursuers. The camp of the 
Romans was surprised and pillaged, and, for the iirst time, 
their emperor fled in disorder before a troop of half-armed 
barbarians. After a long resistance, Philippopolis, destitute 
of succor, was taken by storm. A hundred thousand per- 
sons are reported to have been massacred in the sack of that 

29 In the sixtee.ith chapter of Jornandes, instead of secundo Mresiam. we may- 
venture to substitute secundum, the second Maesia, of which Marcianopolis was 
certainly the capital. (See Hierocles de Provinciis, and Wesseling ad locum, p. 
63G. Itinerar). It is surprising how this palpable error of the scribe could escape 
the judicious correction of Grotius.* 

3J The place is still called Nicop. D'Anville, Geographie Ancienne, torn. i. p. 
307. The little stream, on whose banks it stood, falls into the Danube. 

31 Stephan. Bvzant. de Urbibus, p. 740. Wesseling, Itinerar. p. 136. Zonaras, 
by an odd mistake, ascribes the foundation of Philippopolis to the immediate 
predecessor of Decius. t 

* Luden has observed that Jornandes mentions two passages over the Danube; 
this relates to the second irruption into Maesia. GesLhichte des. X. V. ii. p. 4.4S. 
— M. 

t Now Philippopolis or Philiba ; its situation among the hills caused it to be 
also called Trimontium. D'Anville, Geog. Anc. i. 295. — G. 


great city. 22 Many prisoners of consequence became a valua- 
ble accession to the spoil ; and Priscus, a brother of the late 
emperor Philip, blushed not to assume the purple under the 
protection of the barbarous enemies of Rome. 83 The time, 
however, consumed in that tedious siege enabled Decius to re- 
vive the courage, restore the discipline, and recruit the num- 
bers of his troops. He intercepted several parties of Carpi, 
and other Germans, who were hastening to share the vic- 
tory of their countrymen, 34 intrusted the passes of the 
mountains to officers of approved valor and fidelity, 85 re- 
paired and strengthened the fortifications of the Danube, 
and exerted his utmost vigilance to oppose either the pro- 
gress or the retreat of the Goths. Encouraged by the re- 
turn of fortune, he anxiously waited for an opportunity to 
retrieve, by a great and decisive blow, his own glory, and 
that of the Roman arms. 36 

At the same time when Decius was struggling with the 
violence of the tempest, his mind, calm and deliberate 
amidst the tumult of war, investigated the more general 
causes that, since the age of the Antonines, had so impetu- 
ously urged the decline of the Roman greatness. He soon 
discovered that it was impossible to replace that greatness 
on a permanent basis without restoring public virtue, 
ancient principles and manners, and the oppressed majesty 
of the laws. To execute this noble but arduous design, he 
first resolved to revive the obsolete office of censor; an 
office which, as long as it had subsisted in its- pristine in- 
tegrity, had so much contributed to the perpetuity of the 
state, 37 till it was usurped and gradually neglected by the 
Caesars. 38 Conscious that the favor of the sovereign may 
confer power, but that the esteem of the people can alone 
bestow authority, he submitted the choice of the censor to 
the unbiased voice of the senate. By their unanimous 

32 Ammian. xxxi. 5. w Aurel. Victor, c. 29. 

34 Victoria Carpicce, on some medals of Decius, insinuate these advantages. 

3 "> Claudius (who afterwards reigned with so much glory) was posted in the pass 
of Thermopylaj with 200 Dardanians, 100 heavy and 100 light horse, 00 Cretan 
archers, and 1000 well-armed recruits. See an original letter from the emperor 
to his officer, in the Augustan History, p. 2(0. 

M Jornandes, c. 10-18. Zosimus, 1 i. p. 22. In the general account of this 
war, it is ca~y to discover the opposite prejudices of the Gothic and the Grecian 
writer. In carelessness alone they are alike. 

3; Montesquieu, Grandeur et Decadence des Romains, c. viii. He illustrates 
the nature and use of the censorship with his usual ingenuity, and with uncom- 
mon precision. 

'•'■' Vespasian and Titus were the last censors (Pliny, Hist. Natur. vii. 40. Cen- 
sorious de Die Xatali). The modesty of Trajan refused an honor which he 
deserved, and his example became a law to the Antonines. See Pliny's Panegy- 
ric, c 45 and GO. 


votes, or rather acclamations, Valerian, who was after- 
wards emperor, and who then served witli distinction in the 
army of Decius, was declared the most worthy of that 
exalted honor. As soon as the decree of the senate was 
transmitted to the emperor, he assembled a great coun- 
cil in his camp, and, before the investiture of the censor 
elect, he apprised him of the difficulty and importance of 
his great office. " Happy Valerian," said the prince to his 
distinguished subject, "happy in the general approbation of 
the senate and of the Roman republic ! Accept the censor- 
ship of mankind ; and judge of our manners. You will 
select those avIio deserve to continue members of the senate ; 
you will restore the equestrian order to its ancient splendor ; 
you will improvo the revenue, yet moderate the public bur- 
dens. You will distinguish into regular classes the various 
and infinite multitude of citizens, and accurately review the 
military strength, the wealth, the virtue, and the resources 
of Rome. Your decisions shall obtain the force of laws. 
The army, the palace, the ministers of justice, and the great 
officers of the empire, are all subject to your tribunal. ISTone 
are exempted, excepting only the ordinary consuls, 89 the 
praafect of the city, the king of the sacrifices, and (as long 
as she preserves her chastity inviolate) the eldest of the 
vestal virgins. Even these few, who may not dread the 
severity, will anxiously solicit the esteem, of the Roman 
censor." 40 

A magistrate invested with such extensive powers would 
have appeared not so much the minister as the colleague of 
his sovereign. 41 Valerian justly dreaded an elevation so 
full of envy and of suspicion. He modestly urged the alarm- 
ing greatness of the trust, his own insufficiency, and the 
incurable corruption of the times. He artfully insinuated 
that the office of censor was inseparable from the Imperial 
dignity, and that the feeble hands of a subject were unequal 
to the support of such an immense weight of cares and of 
power. 42 The approaching event of war soon put an end to 
the prosecution of a project so specious but so impractica- 
ble; and, whilst it preserved Valerian from the danger, saved 

33 Yet in spite of this exemption, Pompey appeared before that tribunal dui*- 
ing his consulship. The occasion, indeed, was equally singular and honorable. 
Plutarch in Pomp. p. 6o0. 

4J See the original speech in the Augustan Hist. pp. 173, 174. 

41 This transaction might deceive Zonaras, who supposes that Valerian was 
actually declared the colleague of Decius, 1. xii. p. 6:T>. 

i2 Hist. August, p. 174. The emperor's reply is omitted. 


the emperor Decius from the disappointment, whieh would 
most probably have attended it. A censor may maintain, 
he can never restore, the morals of a state. It is impossible 
for such a magistrate to exert his authority with benefit, or 
even with effect, unless he is supported by a quick sense of 
honor and virtue in the minds of the people, by a decent 
reverence for the public opinion, and by a train of useful 
prejudices combating on the side of national manners. In 
a period when these principles are annihilated, the censorial 
jurisdiction must either sink into empty pageantry, or be 
converted into a partial instrument of vexatious oppression. 43 
It was easier to vanquish the Goths than to eradicate the 
public vices ; yet even in the first of these enterprises 
Decius lost his army and his life. 

The Goths were now, on every side, surrounded and 
pursued by the Roman arms. The flower of their troops 
had perished in the long siege of Philippopolis, and the ex- 
hausted country could no longer afford subsistence for the 
remaining multitude of licentious barbarians. Reduced to 
this extremity, the Goths would gladly have purchased, by 
the surrender of all their booty and prisoners, the permission 
of an undisturbed retreat. But the emperor, confident of 
victory, and resolving, by the chastisement of these invaders, 
to strike a salutary terror into the nations of the North, re- 
fused to listen to any terms of accommodation. The high- 
spirited barbarians preferred death to slavery. An obscure 
town of Maesia, called Forum Trebronii, 44 was the scene of 
the battle. The Gothic army was drawn up in three lines, 
and, either from choice or accident, the front of the third 
line was covered by a morass. In the beginning of the ac- 
tion, the son of Decius, a youth of the fairest hopes, and 
already associated to the honors of the purple, was slain by 
an arrow, in the sight of his afflicted father; who, summon- 
ing all his fortitude, admonished the dismayed troops that 
the loss of a single soldier was of little importance to the 
republic. 45 The conflict was terrible ; it was the combat of 
despair against grief and rage. The first line of the Goths 
at length gave way in disorder; the second, advancing to 
sustain it, shared its fate ; and the third only remained en- 

43 Such as the attempts of Augustus towards a reformation of manners. Tacit. 
Annal. iii. 24. 

^Tillemont, Histoire des Empereurs, torn. iii. p. 598. As Zosimus and some 
of his follower.; mistake the Danube for the Tanais, they place the held of battle 
in the plains of Scytbia. 

45 Aurelius Victor allows two distinct actions for the deaths of the two Decii ; 
but I have preferred the account of Jornandes. 


tire, prepared to dispute the passage of the morass, which 
was imprudently attempted by the presumption of the enemy. 
" Here the fortune of the day turned, and all things became 
adverse to the Romans ; the place deep with ooze, sinking 
under those who stood, slippery to such as advanced; tiieir 
armor heavy, the waters deep ; nor could they wield, in that 
uneasy situation, their weighty javelins. The barbarians, 
on the contrary, were inured to encounter in the bogs, their 
persons tall, their spears long, such as could wound at a dis- 
tance." 46 In this morass the Roman army, after an ineffec- 
tual struggle, was irrecoverably lost; nor could the body of 
the emperor ever be found. 47 Such was the fate of Decius, 
in the fiftieth year of his age ; an accomplished prince, active 
in war and affable in peace; 48 who, together with his son, 
has deserved to be compared, both in life and death, with 
the brightest examples of ancient virtue. 49 

This fatal blow humbled, for a very little time, the inso- 
lence of the legions. They appear to have patiently expected, 
and submissively obeyed, the decree of the senate which 
regulated the succession to the throne. From a just regard 
for the memory of Decius, the Imperial title was conferred 
on Hostiiianus, his only surviving son j but an equal rank, 
with more effectual power, was granted to Gallus, whose 
experience and ability seemed equal to the great trust of 
guardian to the young prince and the distressed empire. 50 
The first care of the new emperor was to deliver the Illyrian 
provinces from the intolerable weight of the victorious Goths. 
He consented to leave in their hands the rich fruits of their 
invasion, an immense booty, and what was still more dis- 
graceful, a great number of prisoners of the highest merit 
and quality. He plentifully supplied their camp with every 
conveniency that could assuage their angry spirits, or facili- 
tate their so much wished-for departure ; and he even prom- 
ised to pay them annually a large sum of gold, on condition 
they should never afterwards infest the Roman territories 
by their incursions. 51 

40 I have ventured to copy from Tacitus (Annal. i. Gl) the picture of a similar 
engagement between a Roman army ami a German tribe. 

•»< Jornandes, c. 18. Zosimus, 1. i. p. 22 (c. 23]. Zonaras,l. xli. p. 627. Aure- 
lius Victor. 

48 The Decii were killed before the end of the year two hundred and fifty-one, 
since the new princes took possession of the consulship on the ensuing calends 
of January. 

49 Hist. August, p. 223, gives them a very honorable place among the small 
number of good emperors who reigned between Augustus and Diocletian. 

50 Haec Patres comperere decernunt. Victor in Csesaribus. 

6 * Zonaras, 1. xii. p. 628. 


in the age of the Scipios, the most opulent kings of the 
earth, who courted % the protection of the victorious common- 
wealth, were gratified Avith such trifling presents as could 
only derive a value from the hand that bestowed them ; an 
ivory chair, a coarse garment of purple, an inconsiderable 
piece of plate, or a quantity of copper coin. 52 After the 
wealth of nations had centred in Rome, the emperors dis- 
played their greatness, and even their policy, by the regular 
exercise of a steady and moderate liberality towards the 
allies of the state. They relieved the poverty of the barba- 
rians, honored their merit, and recompensed their fidelity. 
These voluntary marks of bounty were understood to flow, 
not from the fears, but merely from the generosity or the 
gratitude of the Romans ; and whilst presents and subsidies 
were liberally distributed among friends and suppliants, they 
were sternly refused to such as claimed them as a debt. 53 
But this stipulation of an annual payment to a victorious 
enemy appeared without disguise in the light of an ignomin- 
ious tribute ; the minds of the Romans were not yet accus- 
tomed to accept such unequal laws from a tribe of barba- 
rians; and the prince, who by a necessary concession had 
probably saved his country, became the object of the gen- 
eral contempt and aversion. The death of Hostilianus, 
though it happened in the midst of a raging pestilence, was 
interpreted as the personal crime of Gallus; 54 and even the 
defeat of the emperor was ascribed by the voice of suspicion 
to the perfidious counsels of his hated successor. 55 The 
tranquillity which the empire enjoyed during the first year 
of his administration 56 served rather to inflame than to ap- 
pease the public discontent ; and as soon as the apprehen- 
sions of war were removed, the infamy of the peace was more 
deeply and more sensibly felt. 

But the Romans were irritated to a still higher de- 
gree, when they discovered that they had not even secured 
their repose, though at the expense of their honor. The 
dangerous secret of the wealth and weakness of the empire 
had been revealed to the world. New swarms of barbarians, 

52 A Sella, a Tor/a, and a golden Patera of five pounds weight, were accepted 
with joy and gratitude by the wealthy king of Egypt. (Livy, xxvii. 4.) Quina 
millia yEris, a weight of copper, in value about eighteen pounds sterling, was the 
usual present made to foreign ambassadors. (Livy, xxxi. d.) 

bi See the firmness of a Loman general so late as the time of Alexander Sev- 
erus, in the Excerpta Legationum, p. 2/5, edit. Louvre. 

04 For the plague, see Jornandes, c. 1!). and Victojs in Csesaril ns. 

* These improbable accusations ate alleged by Zosiinus, 1. i. pp. 23, 2L 

w Jornandes. c. 19. The Gothic writer at le;ist observed the peace which his 
victorious countrymen had sworn to Gallus. 


encouraged by the success, and not conceiving themselves 
bound by the obligations, of their brethren, spread devasta- 
tion through the Illyrian provinces, and terror as far as the 
gates of Rome. The defence of the monarch)', which seemed 
abandoned by the pusillanimous emperor, was assumed by 
yEmilianus, governor of Pannonia and Msesia ; -who rallied 
the scattered forces, and revived the fainting spirits of the 
troops. The barbarians were unexpectedly attacked, routed, 
chased, and pursued beyond the Danube. The victorious 
leader distributed as a donative the money collected for the 
tribute, and the acclamations of the soldiers proclaimed 
him emperor on the field of battle. 57 Gallus, who, careless 
of the general welfare, indulged himself in the pleasures of 
Italy, was almost in the same instant informed of the success, 
of the revolt, and of the rapid approach of his aspiring lieu- 
tenant. He advanced to meet hint as far as the plains of 
Spoleto. When the armies came in sight of each other, the 
soldiers of Gallus compared the ignominious conduct of their 
sovereign with the glory of his rival. They admired the 
valor of ^Emilianus; they were attracted by his liberality, 
for he offered a considerable increase of pay to all deserters. 58 
The murder of Gallus, and of his son Volusianus, put an end 
to the civil war; and the senate gave a legal sanction to the 
rights of conquest. The letters of iEmilianus to that assem- 
bly displayed a mixture of moderation and vanity. He as- 
sured them that he should resign to their wisdom the civil 
administration ; and, contenting himself with the quality of 
their general, would in a short time assert the glory of Rome, 
and deliver the empire from all the barbarians both of the 
North and of the East. 59 His pride was flattered by the ap- 
plause of the senate ; and medals are still extant, represent- 
ing him in the name and attributes of Hercules the Victor, 
and of Mars the Avenger. 60 

If the new monarch possessed the abilities, he wanted 
the time, necessary to fulfil these splendid promises. Less 
than four months intervened between his victory and his 
fall. 61 He had vanquished Gallus : he sunk under the weight 
of a competitor more formidable than Gallus. That unfor- 
tunate prince had sent Valerian, already distinguished by 
the honorable title of censor, to bring the legions of Gaul 

6T Zosimus, 1. i. pp. 25, 26. 68 Victor in Caesaribus. 

59 Zonaras, I, xii. p. 628. co Banduri Numismata, p. 94. 

61 Eutropius, 1. ix. c 6, 6ays tertio rueuse. Eusebius omits tbis eruperojr- 


and Germany 62 to his aid. Valerian executed that commis- 
sion with zeal and fidelity, and as he arrived too late to save 
his sovereign, he resolved to revenge him. The troops of 
^Emilianus, who still lay encamped in the plains of Spoleto, 
were awed by the sanctity of his chaiai-ter, but much more 
by the superior strength of his army; and as they were now 
become as incapable of personal attachment as they had 
always been of constitutional principle, they readily imbrued 
their hands in the blood of a prince who so lately had been 
the object of their partial choice. The guilt was theirs,* 
but the advantage of it was Valerian's ; who obtained the 
possession of the throne by the means indeed of a civil war, 
but with a decree of innocence singular in that a^e of rcvo- 
lutions ; since he owed neither gratitude nor allegiance to 
his predecessor, whom he dethroned. 

Valerian was about sixty years of age 63 when he was in- 
vested with the purple, not by the caprice of the populace, 
or the clamors of the army, but by the unanimous voice of 
the Roman world. In his gradual ascent through the honors 
of the state he had deserved the favor of virtuous princes, 
and had declared himself the enemy of tyrants. 04 His noble 
birth, his mild but unblemished manners, his learning, pru- 
dence, and experience, were revered by the senate and 
people ; and if mankind (according to the observation of an 
ancient writer) had been left at liberty to choose a master, 
their choice would most assuredly have fallen on Valerian. 65 
Perhaps the merit of this emperor was inadequate to his 
reputation ; perhaps his abilities, or at least his spirit, were 
affected by the languor and coldness of old age. The con- 
sciousness of his decline engaged him to share the throne 
with a younger and more active associate : 66 the emergency 
of the times demanded a general no less than a prince ; and 

C2 Zosimus, 1. i. p. 28. Eutropius and Victor station Valerian's army in 

w He was about seventy at the time of his accession, or, as it is more prob- 
able, of his death. Hist. August, p. 173. Tillemont, Hist, des Empereur.-;, torn, 
iii. p. 893, note 1. 

' * Inimieus tyrannorum. Hist. Aug ist. p. 173. In the glorious struggle of 
the senate against Maximin, Valerian acted a very spirited part. Hist. August. 
p. 156. 

05 According to the distinction of Victor, he seems to have received the title 
of Imperalor from the army, and that of Augustus from the senate. 

03 From Victor and from the medals, Tillemont (torn. iii. p. 710) very justly 
infers, that Gallienus was associated to the Empire about the month of August of 
the year 253. 

* Aurelius Victor says that iEmilianus died of a natural disorder. Eutropius, 
in speaking of hii death, does not say that he was assassinated. — G. 


the experience of the Roman censor might have directed 
him where to bestow the Imperial purple as the reward of 
military merit. But instead of making a judicious choice, 
which would have confirmed his reign and endeared his 
memory, Valerian, consulting only the dictates of affection 
or vanity, immediately invested with the supreme honors 
his son Gallienus, a youth whose effeminate vices had been 
hitherto concealed by the obscurity of a private station. 
The joint government of the father and the son subsisted 
about seven, and the sole administration of Gallienus con- 
tinued about eight, years. But the whole period was one 
uninterrupted series of confusion and calamity. As the 
Roman empire was at the same time, and on every side, at- 
tacked by' the blind fury of foreign invaders, and the wild 
ambition of domestic usurpers, we shall consult order and 
perspicuity by pursuing not so much the doubtful arrange- 
ment of dates as the more natural distribution of subjects. 
The most dangerous enemies of Rome, during the reigns of 
Valerian and Gallienus, were, 1. The Franks ; 2. The Ale- 
man ni ; 3. The Goths ; and, 4. The Persians. Under these 
general appellations, we may comprehend the adventures of 
less considerable tribes, whose obscure and uncouth names 
would only serve to oppress the memory and perplex the 
attention of the reader. 

I. As the posterity of the Franks compose one of the 
greatest and most enlightened nations of Europe, the powers 
of learning and ingenuity have been exhausted in the dis- 
covery of their unlettered ancestors. To the tales of cre- 
dulity have succeeded the systems of fancy. Every passage 
has been silted, every spot has been surveyed, that might 
possibly reveal some faint traces of their origin. It has 
been supposed that Pannonia, 07 that Gaul, that the northern 
parts of Germany, 08 gave birth to that celebrated colony of 
warriors. At length the most rational critics, rejecting the 
fictitious emigrations of ideal conquerors, have acquiesced 
in a sentiment whose simplicity persuades us of its truth. 09 
They suppose, that, about the year two hundred and forty, 70 

67 Various systems have been formed to explain a difficult passage in Gregory 
of Tours, 1. ii. c. 9. 

^ The Geographer of Ravenna, i. 11, by mentioning Mauri nr/ania, on the con- 
fines of Denmark, as the ancient seat of the Franks, gave birth to an ingenious 
system of Leibnitz. 

03 See Cluver. Germania Antiqua, 1. iii. c. 20. M. Freret, in the Memoires de 
l'Academie des Inscriptions, torn. wiii. 

70 Most probably under the reign of Gordian, from au accidental circumstance 
fully canvassed by.Tillemont, torn. iii. pp. 710, 1181. 


a new confederacy was formed under the name of Franks 
by the old inhabitants of the Lower Rhine and the Weser.* 
The present circle of Westphalia, the Landgraviate of Hesse, 
and the duchies of Brunswick and Luneburg, were the 
ancient seat of the Chauci, who, in their inaccessible 
morasses, defied the Roman arms ; 71 of the Cherusci, proud 
of the fame of Arminius ; of the Catti, formidable by their 
firm and intrepid infantry ; and of several other tribes of 
inferior power and renown. 72 The love of liberty was the 
ruling passion of these Germans ; the enjoyment of it their 
best treasure ; the word that expressed that enjoyment the 
most pleasing to their ear. They deserved, they assumed, 
they maintained the honorable epithet of Franks, or Free- 
men ; which concealed, though it did not extinguish, the 
peculiar names of the several states of the confederacy. 73 
Tacit consent, and mutual advantage, dictated the first laws 
of the union ; it was gradually cemented by habit and 
experience. The league of the Franks may admit of some 
comparison with the Helvetic body ; in which every canton, 
retaining its independent sovereignty, consults with its 
brethren in the common cause, without acknowledging the 
authority of any supreme head or representative assembly. 74 
But the principle of the two confederacies was extremely 
different. A peace of two hundred years has rewarded the 
wise and honest policy of the Swiss. An inconstant spirit, 
the thirst of rapine, and a disregard to the most solemn 
treaties, disgraced the character of the Franks. 

The Romans had long experienced the daring valor of 
the people of Lower Germany. The union of their strength 
threatened Gaul with a more formidable invasion, and re- 
quired the presence of Gallienus, the heir and colleague of 
Imperial power. 75 Whilst that prince, and his infant son 
Saloninus, displayed, in the court of Treves, the majesty of 

n Plin. Hist. Natur. xvi. 1. The Panegyrists frequently allude to the morasses 
of the Franks. 

7 - Tacit. Germania, c. 30. 37. 

73 In a subsequent period most of those old names are occasionally mentioned. 
See some vestiges of them in Cluver. Germ. Antiq. 1. iii. 

74 Simler de IJepublica Helvet. cum notis Fuselin. 
73 Zosimus, 1. i. p. 27. 

* The confederation of the Franks app -ars to have been formed, 1. Of the 
Chauci. 2. Of the Sicanibri, th.) inhabitants of the duchy of B lg. 3. Of the 
Attuarii, to the north of the Sicanibri, in the principality of Waldeck, between 
the Di me I and t he Eder. 4. Of theBiucteri, on the banks of the Lippe. and in 
the Hartz. 5. Of th i Chamavii, the Gambrivii of Ta< itus, who were established, 
at (he time of the Frank ish confederation, in the country of the Brueteri. G. 
Of the Catti, in Hessia. — G. The Salii and Cherusci arc added in Greenwood's 
Hist, of Germans, i. 193.— M. 


the empire, its armies were ably conducted by their genera], 
Posthumus, who, though he afterwards betrayed the family 
of Valerian, was ever faithful to the great interest of the 
monarchy. The treacherous language of panegyrics and 
medals darkly announces a long series of victories. Trophies 
and titles attest (if such evidence can attest) the fame of 
Posthumus, who is repeatedly styled the Conqueror of the 
Germans, and the Saviour of Gaul. 73 

But a singl«e fact, the only one indeed of which we have 
any distinct knowledge, erases, in a great measure, these 
monuments of vanity and adulation. The Rhine, though 
dignified with the title of Safeguard of the provinces, was 
an imperfect barrier against the daring spirit of enterprise 
with which the Franks were actuated. Their rapid devas- 
tations stretched from the river to the foot of the Pyrenees ; 
nor were they stopped by those mountains. Spain, which 
had never dreaded, was unable to resist, the inroads of the 
Germans. During twelve years, the greatest part of the 
reign of Gallienus, that opulent country Mas the theatre of 
unequal and destructive hostilities. Tarragona, the flour- 
ishing capital of a peaceful province, was sacked and almost 
destroyed ; 77 and so late as the days of Orosius, who wrote 
in the fifth century, wretched cottages, scattered amidst the 
ruins of magnificent cities, still recorded the rage of the 
barbarians. 73 When the exhausted country no longer sup- 
plied a variety of plunder, the Franks seized on some ves- 
sels in the ports of Spain, 79 and transported themselves into 
Mauritania. The distant province was astonished with the 
fury of these barbarians, who seemed to fall from a new 
world, as their name, manners, and complexion, were equally 
unknown on the coast of Africa. 80 

" 6 M. de Brequigny (in the Memoires de l'Academie, torn, xxx.) has given as a 
very curious life of Posthumus. A series of the Augustan History from Medals 
and Inscriptions has been more than once planned, and is still much wanted.* 

~> : Aurel. Victor, c. 33. Instead of Pcene direpto, both the sense and ihe ex- 
pression require deleio ; though indeed, for different reasons, it is alike difficult 
to correct the text of the best, and of the worst, wi iters. 

' rf In the time of Ausonius (the end of the fourth century) Ilerda or Lerida 
was in a very ruinous slate (Auson. Epist. xxv. 58), which probably was the ton- 
sequence of this invasion. 

'•■> Valesius is therefore mistaken in supposing that the Franks bad invaded 
Spain by sea. 

80 Aurel . Victor. Eutrop. ix. f>. 

* M. Eckhel, Keeper of the Cal inet of Medals and Professor of Antiquities at 
Vienna, lately deceased, has supplied this want by his excellent work, Doetrina 
vcterum Nummorum, conseripta a Jos. Eckhel, s vol. in 4to. Vindobona, 17:7. — 
G. Captain Smyth has likewise printed (privately) a valuable Descriptive Cata- 
logue of a series of Large Brass Medals of this period. Bedford, 1834. — M. 


IT. In that part of Upper Saxony, beyond the Elbe, 
which is at present culled the Mnrquisatc of Lusace, there 
existed, in ancient times, a sacred wood, the awful seat of 
the superstition of the Saevi. None Mere permitted to 
enter the holy precimts without confessing, by their servile 
bonds and suppliant posture, the immediate presence of the 
sovereign Deity. 61 Patriotism contributed, as well as devo- 
tion, to consecrate the Sonnenwald, or wood of the Sem- 
nones. 8 - It was universally believed that the nation had 
received its first existence on that sacred spot. At stated 
periods the numerous tribes who gloried in the Suevic 
blood resorted thither by their ambassadors ; and the mem- 
ory of their common extraction was perpetuated by bar- 
baric rites and human sacrifices. The wide extended name 
of Suevi filled the interior countries of Germany, from the 
banks of the Oder to those of the Danube. They were dis- 
tinguished from the other Germans by their peculiar mode 
of dressing their long hair, which they gathered into a rude 
knot on the crown of the head ; and they delighted in an 
ornament that showed their ranks more lofty and terrible 
in the eyes of the enemy. 83 Jealous as the Germans were 
of military renown, they all confessed the superior valor of 
the Suevi ; and the tribes of the Usipetes and Tcncteri, 
who, with a vast army, encountered the dictator Caesar, de- 
clared that they esteemed it not a disgrace to have fled be- 
fore a people to whose arms the immortal gods themselves 
were unequal. 84 

In the reign of the emperor Caracalla an innumerable 
swarm of Suevi appeared on the banks of the Main, and in 
the neighborhood of the Roman provinces, in quest either 
of food, of plunder, or of glory. 85 The hasty army of volun- 
teers gradually coalesced into a great and permanent nation, 
and, as it was composed from so many different tribes, as- 
sumed the name of Alemanni,* or Allmen, to denote at 

81 Tacit. Germanla, 38. ^ Cluver. Germ. Antiq. ail. 25. 

83 Sic Suevi a ceteris Germanis, sic Suevorum ingenui a s-ervis separantur. A 
proud separation ! « 4 Caesar in Bello Gallico, iv. 7. 

*s Victor in Caracal. Dion Cassius, Ixvii. p. 1350. 

* The nation of the Alemanni was net originally formed by the Suevi properly 
so called; these have always preserved their own name. Shortly aiterwards 
they made (A. I). 357) an irruption into Rluetia, and it was not long after that 
they were reunited with the Alemanni. Still thev have always been a distinct 
p?oplj ; at the present day, the people who inhabit the north west of the Black 
Forest call themselves Schwaben Suabians, Suave*, while those who inhabit 
near the Rhine, in Ortenau, the Brisgaw, I he M^tgraviate of Baden, do not con- 
sider themselves Suabians, and are by origin Alemanni. 

The Tencteri and the Usipeta?, inhabitants of the interior and of the north of 


once their various lineage and their common bravery. 86 The 
latter was soon felt by the Romans in many a hostile in-" 
road. The Alemanni fought chiefly on horseback; but their 
cavalry was rendered still more formidable by a mixture of 
light infantry, selected from the bravest and most active of 
the youth, whom frequent exercise had inured to accompany 
the horsemen in the longest march, the most rapid charge, 
or the most precipitate retreat. 87 

This warlike people of Germans had been astonished by 
the immense preparations of Alexander Severus ; they were 
dismayed by the arms of his successor, a barbarian equal in 
valor and fierceness to themselves. But, still hovering on 
the frontiers of the empire, they increased the general dis- 
order that-ensued after the death of Decius. They inflicted 
severe wounds on the rich })rovinces of Gaul ; they were 
the first who removed the veil that covered the feeble 
majesty of Italy. A numerous body of the Alemanni pene- 
trated across the Danube, and through the Rhaetian Alps 
into the plains of Lombardy,advanced as far as Ravenna, 
and displayed the victorious banners of barbarians almost 
in sight of Rome. 88 

The insult and the danger rekindled in the senate some 
sparks of their ancient virtue. Both the emperors were en- 
gaged in far distant wars, Valerian in the East, and Gallie- 
nus on the Rhine. All the hopes and resources of the 
Romans were in themselves. In this emergency the sena- 
tors resumed the defence'of the republic, drew out the Prae- 
torian guards, who had been left to garrison the capital, and 
filled up then* numbers by enlisting into the public service 

80 This etymology (far different from those which nmnse the fancy of the 
learned) is 'preserved by A^inius Quadratus, an original historian, quoted 1 y 
Agathias, i. c. 5. 

87 The Suevi engaged Cnesar in this manner, and the manoeuvre deserved the 
approbation of the conqueror (in Bello GaJlico, i. 48). 

td Hist. August, pp. 215.216. Dexippus in tiie Excerpta Legationum, p. 8. 
Hieronyrn. Chron. Orosius, vii. 22. 

Westphalia, formed, says Gatterer, the nucleus of the Alemannic nation ; they 
occupied the country where the name of the Alemanni first appears, as con- 
quered in 213, by Caracalla. They were well Indued to fight on horseback (ac- 
cording to Tacitus, Germ. c. 32) ; and Aurelius Victor gives the same praise to 
the Alemanni : finally, they never made part of the Frankish league. The 
Alemanni became subsequently a centre round which gathered a multitude of 
German tribes. See Eumen. Panegyr. c. 2. Amm. Marc, xviil. 2. xxix. J.— G. 

The question whether the Suevi was a generic name comprehending the clans 
which peopled central Germany, is rather hastily decided by M. Guizot. Mr. 
Greenwood, who has s r udied the modern German writers on their own origin, 
supposes the Suevi, Alemanni. and Marcomanni, one people, under different 
appellations. History of Germany, vol. 1 — M. 


the stoutest and most willing of the Plebeians. The Ale- 
manni, astonished with the sudden appearance of an army 
more numerous than their own, retired into Germany, laden 
with spoil ; and their retreat was esteemed as a victory by 
the un warlike Romans. 89 

When Gallienus received the intelligence that his capital 
was delivered from the barbarians, he was much less de- 
lighted than alarmed with the courage of the senate, since 
it might one day prompt them to rescue the public from 
domestic tyranny as well as from foreign invasion. His 
timid ingratitude was published to his subjects in an edict 
which prohibited the senators from exercising any military 
employment, and even from approaching the camps of the 
legions. But his fears were groundless. The rich and lux- 
urious nobles, sinking into their natural character, accepted, 
as a favor, this disgraceful exemption from military service ; 
and as long as they were indulged in the enjoyment of their 
baths, their theatres, and their villas, they cheerfully re- 
signed the more dangerous cares of empire to the rough 
hands of peasants and soldiers. 90 

Another invasion of the Alemanni, of a more formidable 
aspect, but more glorious event, is mentioned by a writer of 
the Lower Empire. Three hundred thousand of that warlike 
people are said to have been vanquished, in a battle near 
Milan, by Gallienus in person, at the head of only ten thou- 
sand Romans. 91 We may, however, with great probability, 
ascribe this incredible victory either to the credulity of the 
historian, or to some exaggerated exploits of one of the em- 
peror's lieutenants. It was by arms of a very different 
nature that Gallienus endeavored to protect Italy from the 
fury of the Germans. He espoused Pipa, the daughter of a 
king of the Marcomanni, a Suevic tribe, which was often 
confounded with the Alemanni in their wars and conquests. 92 
To the father, as the' price of his alliance, he granted an 
ample settlement in Pannonia. The native charms of un- 
polished beauty seem to have fixed the daughter in the af- 
fections of the inconstant emperor, and the bands of policy 
were more firmly connected by those of love. But the 
haughty prejudice of Rome still refused the name of mar- 
so Zosimus, 1. i. p. 34. 

90 Aurel. Victor, in Gallieno et Probo. His complaints breathe an uncommon 
spirit of freedom. 

91 Zonaras, 1. xii. p. 631. 

92 One of the Victors calls him king of the Marcomanni ; the other, of the 



riage to the profane mixture of a citizen and a barbarian ; 
and has stigmatized the German princess with the opprobri- 
ous title of concubine of Gallienus. 93 

III. We have already traced the emigration of the Goths 
from Scandinavia, or at least from Prussia, to the mouth of 
the Borysthenes, and have followed their victorious arms from 
the Borysthenes to the Danube. Under the reigns of Vale- 
rian and Gallienus, the frontier of the last-mentioned river 
was perpetually infested by the inroads of Germans and 
Sarmatians; but it was defended by the Romans with more 
than usual firmness and success. The provinces that were 
the seat of war recruited the armies of Rome with an inex- 
haustible supply of hardy soldiers ; and more than one of 
these Illyrian peasants attained the station, and displayed 
the abilities, of a general. Though flying parties of the bar 
barians, who incessantly hovered on the banks of the Dan 
ube, penetrated sometimes to the confines of Italy and Mace- 
donia, their progress was commonly checked, or their return 
intercepted, by the Imperial lieutenants. 94 But the great 
stream of the Gothic hostilities was diverted into a very 
different channel. The Goths, in their new settlement of 
the Ukraine, soon became masters of the northern coast of 
the Euxine : to the south of that inland sea were situated 
the soft and wealthy provinces of Asia Minor, which pos- 
sessed all that could attract, and nothing that could resist, 
a barbarian conqueror. 

The banks of the Borysthenes are only sixty miles dis- 
tant from the narrow entrance 95 of the peninsula of Crim 
Tartary, known to the ancients under the name of Cher- 
sonesus Taurica. 96 On that inhospitable shore Euripides, 
embellishing with exquisite art the tales of antiquity, has 
placed the scene of one of his most affecting tragedies. 07 
The bloody sacrifices of Diana, the arrival of Orestes and 
Pylades, and the triumph of virtue and religion over savage 
fierceness, serve to represent an historical truth, that the 
Tauri, the original inhabitants of the peninsula, were, in 
some degree, reclaimed from their brutal manners by a 
gradual intercourse with the Grecian colonies which settled 
along the maritime coast. The little kingdom of Bosphorus, 

91 See Tillemont. Hist, rtes Empereurs, torn. iii. p. 308, &c. 

91 See the lives of Claudius, Auivlian, and Probu-s in the Augustan History. 

513 It is about half a league in breadth. Genealogical History of the Tartars, 
p. 598. 

96 M. de Peyssonel, who had been French Consul at Caffa. in his Observa- 
tions sur les Peuples Barbares, qui out habite les bords du Danube. 

9 <" Euripides in Iphigenia in Tauris. 


whose capital was situated on the straits through which 
the Maeotis communicates itself to the Euxine, was com- 
posed of degenerate Greeks and half-civilized barbarians. 
It subsisted, as an independent state, from the time of the 
Peloponnesian war, 98 was at last swallowed up by the am- 
bition of Mithridates," and, with the rest of his dominions, 
sunk under the weight of the Roman arms. From the 
reign of Augustus 10 ° the kings of Bosphorus were the 
humble, but not useless, allies of the empire. By presents, 
by arms, and by a slight fortification drawn across the isth- 
mus, they effectually guarded, against the roving plunderers 
of Sarmatia, the access of a country which, from its peculiar 
situation and convenient harbors, commanded the Euxine 
Sea and Asia Minor. 101 As long as the sceptre was pos- 
sessed by a lineal succession of kings, they acquitted them- 
selves of their important charge with vigilance and success. 
Domestic factions, and the fears, or private interest, of ob- 
scure usurpers, who seized on the vacant throne, admitted 
the Goths into the heart of Bosphorus. With the acquisi- 
tion of a superfluous waste of fertile soil, the conquerors ob- 
tained the command of a naval force sufficient to transport 
their armies to the coast of Asia. 102 The ships used in the 
navigation of the Euxine were of a very singular construc- 
tion. They were slight flat-bottomed barks framed of tim- 
ber only, without the least mixture of iron, and occasionally 
covered with a shelving roof on the appearance of a tem- 
pest. 103 In these floating houses the Goths carelessly trusted 
themselves to the mercy of an unknown sea, under the con- 
duct of sailors pressed into the service, and whose skill and 
fidelity were equally suspicious. But the hopes of plunder 
had banished every idea of danger, and a natural fearless- 
ness of temper supplied in their minds the more rational 
confidence which is the just result of knowledge and ex- 
perience. Warriors of such a daring spirit must have often 
murmured against the cowardice of their guides, who re- 
quired the strongest assurances of a settled calm before they 

93 Strabo, 1. vii. p. 309. The first kings of Bosphorus were the allies of 

,JJ Appian in Mithridat. 

101 It was reduced by the arms of Agrippa. Orosius, vi. 21. Eutropius, vii. 9. 
The Romans once advanced within three days' march of the Tanais. Tacit. 
Annal. xii. 17. 

1(1 See the Toxaris of Lucian, if we credit the sincerity and the virtues of 
the Scythian, who relates a great war of his nation against the kings of Bos- 

lu2 Zosimus, 1. i. p. 28. 

103 Strabo, 1. xi. Tacit. Hist. iii. 47. They were called Camaraz. 


would venture to embark ; and would scarcely ever be 
tempted to lose sight of the land. Such, at least, is the 
practice of the modern Turks ; 104 and they are probably not 
inferior, in the art of navigation, to the ancient inhabitants 
of Bosphorus. 

The fleet of the Goths, leaving the coast of Circassia on 
the left hand, first appeared before Pityus, 105 the utmost 
limits of the Roman provinces; a city provided with a con- 
venient port, and fortified with a strong wall. Here they 
met with a resistance more obstinate than they had reason 
to expect from the feeble garrison of a distant fortress. 
They were repulsed ; and their disappointment seemed to 
diminish the terror of the Gothic name. As long as Suc- 
cessianus, an officer of superior rank and merit, defended 
that frontier, all their efforts were ineffectual ; but as soon 
as he was removed by Valerian to a more honorable but less 
important station, they resumed the attack of Pityus ; and 
by the destruction of that city, obliterated the memory of 
their former disgrace. 106 

Circling round the eastern extremity of the Euxine Sea, 
the navigation from Pityus to Trebizond is about three hun- 
dred miles. 107 The course of the Goths carried them in sight 
of the country of Colchis, so famous by the expedition of the 
Argonauts ; and they even attempted, though without suc- 
cess, to pillage a rich temple at the mouth of the River 
Phasis. Trebizond, celebrated in the retreat of the ten thou- 
sand as an ancient colony of Greeks, 108 derived its wealth 
and splendor from the magnificence of the emperor Hadrian, 
who had constructed an artificial port on a coast left desti- 
tute by nature of secure harbors. 109 The city was large and 
populous; a double enclosure of Avails seemed to defy the 
fury of the Goths, and the usual garrison had been strength- 
ened by a reenforcement of ten thousand men. But there 

i°* See a very natural picture of the Euxine navigation, in the xvith letter of 

ins Arrian places the frontier garrison at Dioscurias,or Sebastopolis, forty-four 
miles to the east of Pityus. The garrison of Phasis consisted in his time of only 
four hundred foot. See the Periplus of the Euxine.* 

11* Zo^imus. 1. i. p. 30. 

107 Arrian (in Peri-do Maris Euxini, p. 130) calls the distance 2610 stadia. 

108 Xenophon, Anabasis, 1. iv. p. 3-! 8, edit. Hutehinson.f 

109 Arrian, p. 129. The general observation is Tournef ort's. 

* Pityus is Pitchinda, according to D'Anville, ii. 115.— G. Rather Soukoun.— 
M. Dioscurias is Iskuriah.— G. 

t Fallmerayer (Geschichte des Kaiserthums von Tranezunt, p. G, <Src, assigns 
a very ancient date to the first (Pelasgic) foundation of Trapezus cTrebizond). 
— M. 


are not any advantages capable of supplying the absence of 
discioline and vigilance. The numerous garrison of Trebi- 
zond, dissolved in riot and luxury, disdained to guard their 
impregnable fortifications. The Goths soon discovered the 
supine negligence of the besieged, erected a lofty pile of fas- 
cines, ascended the walls in the silence of the night, and en- 
tered the defenceless city sword in hand. A general mas- 
sacre of the people ensued, whilst the affrighted soldiers 
escaped through the opposite gates of the town. The most 
holy temples, and the most splendid edifices, were involved 
in a common destruction. The booty that fell into the 
hands of the Goths was immense : the wealth of the adja- 
cent countries had been deposited in Trebizond, as in a 
secure place of refuge. The number of captives was in- 
credible, as the victorious barbarians ranged without oppo- 
sition through the extensive province of Pontus. 110 The 
rich spoils of Trebizond /hied a great fleet of ships that had 
been found in the port. The robust youth of the sea-coast 
were chained to the oar; and the Goths, satisfied with the 
success of their first naval expedition, returned in triumph 
to their new establishments in the kingdom of Bosphorus. 111 
The second expedition of the Goths was undertaken with 
greater powers of men and ships; but they steered a differ- 
ent course, and, disdaining the exhausted provinces of Pon- 
tus, followed the western coast of the Euxine, passed before 
the wide mouths of the Borysthenes, the Dniester, and the 
Danube, and, increasing their fleet by the capture of a great 
number of fishing barks, they approached the narrow outlet 
through which the Euxine Sea pours its waters into the 
Mediterranean, and divides the continents of Europe and 
Asia. The garrison of Chalcedon was encamped near the 
temple of Jupiter Urius, on a promontory that commanded 
the entrance of the strait ; and so inconsiderable were the 
dreaded invasions of the barbarians, that this body of troops 
surpassed in number the Gothic army. But it was in num- 
bers alone that they surpassed it. They deserted with pre- 
cipitation their advantageous post, and abandoned the town 
of Chalcedon, most plentifully stored with arms and money, 
to the discretion of the conquerors. Whilst they hesitated 
whether they should prefer the sea or land, Europe or Asia, 
for the scene of their hostilities, a perfidious fugitive pointed 

110 See an epistle of Gregory Thaumaturgus, bishop of Neo-Caesarea, quoted 
by Mascou, v. ;j7. 

111 Zosimus, 1. i. pp. 32, 33, 


out Nicomedia,* once the capital of the kings of Bithynia, as 
a rich and easy conquest. Pie guided the march, which was 
only sixty miles from the camp of Chalcedon, 112 directed the 
resistless attack, and partook of the booty; for the Goths 
had learned sufficient policy to reward the traitor, whom 
they detested. Nice, Prusa, Apamaea, Cius,f cities that had 
sometimes rivalled, or imitated, the splendor of Nieomedia, 
were involved in the same calamity, which, in a few weeks, 
raged without control through the whole province of Bithy- 
nia. Three hundred years of peace, enjoyed by the soft in- 
habitants of Asia, had abolished the exercise of arms, and 
removed the apprehension of danger. The ancient walls 
were suffered to moulder away, and all the revenue of the 
most opulent cities was reserved for the construction of 
baths, temples, and theatres. 113 

When the city of Cyzicus withstood the utmost effort of 
Mithridates, 114 it was distinguished by wise laws, a naval 
power of two hundred galleys, and three arsenals — of arms, 
of military engines, and of corn. 115 It was still the seat of 
wealth and luxury; but of its ancient strength nothing re- 
mained except the situation, in a little island of the Propon- 
tis, connected with the continent of Asia only by two 
bridges. From the recent sack of Prusa, the Goths ad- 
vanced within eighteen miles 116 of the city, which they had 
devoted to destruction ; but the ruin of Cyzicus was delayed 
by a fortunate accident. The season was rainy, and the 
Lake Apolloniates, the reservoir of all the springs of Mount 
Olympus, rose to an uncommon height. The little river of 
Rhyndacus, which issues from the lake, swelled into a broad 
and rapid stream, and stopped the progress of the Goths. 
Their retreat to the maritime city of Heraclea, where the 
fleet had probably been stationed, was attended by a long 
train of wagons laden with the spoils of Bithynia, and was 
marked bv the flames of Nice and Nicomedia, which thev 
wantonly burnt. 117 Some obscure hints are mentioned of a 

iia Itiner. Hierosolym. p. 572. Wesseling. 113 Zosimus, 1. i. pp. 32, 33. 

114 He besieged the place with 400 galleys, 150,000 foot, and a numerous 
cavalry. See Plutarch in Lucul. Appian in Mithridat. Cicero pro Lege Man- 
ilia, c. 8. 

115 Strabo, 1. xii. p. 573. 

110 Pocock's Description, of the East, 1. ii. c. 23, 24 
117 Zosimus, 1. i. p. 33. 

* It has preserved its name, joined to the preposition of place, in that of Is 
Nikmid. D'Anv. Geog. Anc. ii. '28. — G. 

t Now Isnik, Bursa, Mondania, Ghic, or Kemlik. D'Anv. ii. 23.— G. 


doubtful combat that secured their retreat. 118 But even a 
complete victory would have been of little moment, as the 
approach of the autumnal equinox summoned them to hasten 
their return. To navigate the Euxine before the month of 
May, or after that of September, is esteemed by the modern 
Turks the most unquestionable instance of rashness and 
folly. 119 

When we are informed that the third fleet, equipped by 
the Goths in the ports of Bosphorus, consisted of five hun- 
dred sail of ships, 120 our ready imagination instantly com- 
putes and multiplies the formidable armament; but, as we 
are assured by the judicious Strabo m that the piratical ves- 
sels used by the barbarians of Pontus and the Lesser Scy- 
thia were not capable of containing more than twenty-five 
or thirty men, we may safely affirm that fifteen thousand 
warriors, at the most, embarked in this great expedition. 
Impatient of the limits of the Euxine, they steered their 
destructive course from the Cimmerian to the Thracian 
Bosphorus. When they had almost gained the middle of 
the straits, they were suddenly driven back to the entrance 
of them; till a favorable wind, springing up the next day, 
carried them in a few hours into the placid sea, or rather 
lake, of the Pro,pontis. Their landing on the little island of 
Cyzicus was attended with the ruin of that ancient and 
noble city. From thence issuing again through the narrow 
passage of the Hellespont, they pursued their winding navi- 
gation amidst the numerous islands scattered over the Archi- 
pelago, or the ^Egean Sea. The assistance of captives and 
deserters must have been very necessary to pilot their ves- 
sels, and to direct their various incursions, as well on the 
coast of Greece as on that of Asia. At length the Gothic 
fleet anchored in the port of Piraeus, five miles distant from 
Athens, 122 which had attempted to make some preparations 
for a vigorous defence. Cleodamus, one of the engineers 
employed by the emperor's orders to fortify the maritime 
cities against the Goths, had already begun to repair the 
ancient walls, fallen to decay since the time of Scylla. The 
efforts of his skill were ineffectual, and the barbarians be- 
came masters of the native seat of the muses and the arts. 

118 Syncellus tells an unintelligible story of Prince Oclenathus, who defeated 
the Goths, and who was killed by Piince Ouenafhus. 

ih> Voyages de chardin, torn. i. p. 45. He sailed with the Turks from Constan- 
tinople to CatTa, 

l»> Syncellus (p. 382) speaks of this expedition, as undertaken by the Hernli. 

121 Strabo, 1. xi. p. 495. ^ pu n , Hist. Natur. iih 7. 


But while the conquerors abandoned themselves to the 
license of plunder and intemperance, their fleet, that lay 
with a slender guard in the harbor of Piraeus, was unex- 
pectedly attacked by the brave Dexippus, who, flying with 
the engineer Cleodamus from the sack of Athens, collected 
a hasty band of volunteers, peasants as well as soldiers, and 
in some measure avenged the calamities of his country. 123 

But this exploit, whatever lustre it might shed on the 
declining: ao*e of Athens, served rather to irritate than to 
subdue the undaunted spirit of the northern invaders. A 
general conflagration blazed out at the same time in every 
district of Greece. Thebes and Argos, Corinth and Sparta, 
which had formerly waged such memorable wars against 
each other, were now unable to bring an army into the 
field, or even to defend their ruined fortifications. The 
rage of war, both by land and by sea, spread from the 
eastern point of Sunium to the western coast of Epirus. 
The Goths had already advanced within sight of Italy, 
when the approach of such imminent danger awakened the 
indolent Gallienus from his dream of pleasure. The em- 
peror appeared in arms ; and his presence seems to have 
checked the ardor, and to have divided the strength, of the 
enemy. Naulobatus, a chief of the Heruli, accepted an 
honorable capitulation, entered with a large body of his 
countrymen into the service of Rome, and was invested 
with the ornaments of the consular dignity, which had 
never before been profaned by the hands of a barbarian. 124 
Great numbers of the Goths, disgusted with the perils and 
hardships of a tedious voyage, broke into Msesia, with a 
design of forcing their way over the Danube to their settle- 
ments in the Ukraine. The wild attempt would have 
proved inevitable destruction, if the discord of the Roman 
generals had not opened to the barbarians the means of an 
escape. 125 The small remainder of this destroying host 

123 Hist. August, p. 181. Victor, c. 33. Orosius, vii. 42. Zosimus. 1. i. p. 35. 
Zouaras, 1. xii. 635. Syncellus, p. 3S2. It is not without some attention, that we 
can explain and conciliate their imperfect hints. We can still discover some 
traces of the partiality of Dexippus, in the relation of his own and his country- 
men's exploits.* 

124 Syncellus, p. 382. This body of Heruli was for a long time faithful and 

125 Claudius, who commanded on the Danube, thought with propriety and 
acted with spirit. His colleague was jealous of his fame. Hist. August, p. 181. 

* According to a new frngment of Dexippus, published by Mai, he had 2000 
men. He took up a strong po^i'ion in a mountainous and woody district, and 
kept up a harassing warfaie. He expresses a hope of being speedily joined by 
the Imperial fleet. Dexippus in nov. Byzantir-orum. Collect, a Xiebuiir, pp. 26, 
28.— M. 


returned on board their vessels ; and measuring back their 
way through the Hellespont and the Bosphorus, ravaged in 
their passage the shores of Troy, whose fame, immortalized 
by Homer, will probably survive the memory of the Gothic 
conquests. As soon as they found themselves in safety 
within the basin of the Euxine, they landed at Anchialns in 
Thrace, near the foot of Mount Ha?mus ; and, after all their 
toils, indulged themselves in the use of those pleasant and 
salutary hot baths. What remained of the voyage was a 
short and easy navigation. 126 Such was the various fate of 
this third and greatest of their naval enterprises. It may 
seem difficult to conceive how the original body of fifteen 
thousand warriors could sustain the losses and divisions of 
so bold an adventure. Bat as their numbers were gradually 
wasted by the sword, by shipwrecks, and by the influence 
of a warm climate, they were perpetually renewed by troops 
of banditti and deserters, who flocked to the standard of 
plunder, and by a crowd of fugitive slaves, often of German 
or Sarmatian extraction, who eagerly seized the glorious 
opportunity of freedom and revenge. In these expeditions 
the Gothic nation claimed a superior share of honor and 
danger ; but the tribes that fought under the Gothic banners 
are sometimes distinguished and sometimes confounded in 
the imperfect histories of that age ; and as the barbarian 
fleets seemed to issue from the mouth of the Tanais, the 
vague but familiar appellation of Scythians was frequently 
bestowed on the mixed multitude. 127 

In the general calamities of mankind, the death of an 
individual, however exalted, the ruin of an edifice, however 
famous, are passed over with careless inattention. Yet we 
cannot forget that the temple of Diana at Ephesus, after 
having risen with increasing splendor from seven repeated 
misfortunes, 1 ' 28 was finally burnt by the Goths in their third 
naval invasion. The arts of Greece, and the wealth of 
Asia, had conspired to erect that sacred and magnificent 
structure. It was supported by a hundred and twenty-seven 
marble columns of the Ionic order. They were the gifts of 
devout monarchs, and each was sixty feet high. The altar 
was adorned with the masterly sculptures of Praxiteles, 
who had, perhaps, selected from the favorite legends of the 

126 Jornandes, c. 20. 

127 Zosimus and the Greeks (as the author of the Phil opatris) give the name 
of Scythians to those whom Jornandes and the Latin writers constantly represent 
as Goths. 

12 - Hist. Aug. p. 178. Joriiandes, c. 20. - 


place the birth of the divine children of Latona, the con- 
cealmcnt of Apollo after the slaughter of the Cyclops, and 
the clemency of Bacchus to the vanquished Amazons, 129 
Yet the length of the temple of Ephesus was only four 
hundred and twenty-five feet, about two thirds of the 
measure of the church of St. Peter's at Rome. 130 In the 
other dimensions it was still more inferior to that sublime 
production of modern architecture. The spreading arms of 
a Christian cross require a much greater breadth than the 
oblong temples of the Pagans ; and the boldest artists of 
antiquity would have been startled at the proposal of raising 
in the air a dome of the size and proportions of the Pan- 
theon. The temple of Diana was, however, admired as one 
of the wonders of the world. Successive empires, the 
Persian, the Macedonian, and the Iioman, had revered its 
sanctity and enriched its splendor. 131 But the rude savages 
of the Baltic were destitute of a taste for the elegant arts, 
and they despised the ideal terrors of a foreign super- 
stition. 13 - 

Another circumstance is related of these invasions, which 
might deserve our notice, were it not justly to be suspected 
as the fanciful conceit of a recent sophist. We are told 
that in the sack of Athens the Goths had collected all the 
libraries, and were on the point of setting fire to this funeral 
pile of Grecian learning, had not one of their chiefs, of 
more refined policy than his brethren, dissuaded them from 
the design, by the profound observation, that as long as 
the Greeks were addicted to the study of books they would 
never apply themselves to the exercise of arms. 133 The 
sagacious councillor (should the truth of the fact be admit- 
ted) reasoned like an ignorant barbarian. In the most 
polite and powerful nations, genius of every kind has 
displayed itself about the same period ; and. the age of 

12 9 Strabo, 1. xiv. p. 640. Vitruvius, 1. i. c. i. pryefat. 1. vii. Tacit* Annal. iii. 
61. Plin. Hist. Nat. xxxvi. 14. 

13) The len 'tk of St. Peter's is 840 Iioman palms ; each palm is very little short 
of nine English inches. See Greaves's Miscellanies, vol. i. p. 233 ; on the Roman 

i3i The policy, however, of the Romans induced them to abridge the extent of 
the sanctuary or asylum, which by successive privileges had spread itself two 
stadia round the temple. Strabo, 1. xiv. p. 641. Tacit. Anna!, iii. 60, &c. 

132 They offered no sacrifices to the Grecian gods. See Epistol. Gregor. Thau- 

133 Zonaras, 1. xii. p. 635. Such an anecdote was perfectly suited to the 
taste of Montaigne. He makes use of it in his agreeable Essay on Pedantry, 1. i. 
c. 24. 

St. Paul's Cathedral is 500 feet. J}aUaway on. Architecture, p. 203.-r-M« 


science has generally been the age of military virtue and 

IV. The new sovereigns of Persia, Artaxerxes and his 
son Sapor, had triumphed (as we have already seen) over 
the house of Arsaces. Of the many princes of that ancient 
race, Chosroes,king of Armenia, had alone preserved both 
his life and his independence. He defended himself by the 
natural strength of his country ; by the perpetual resort of 
fugitives and malcontents ; by the alliance of the Romans, 
and, above all, by his own courage. Invincible in arms, 
during a thirty years' war, he was at length assassinated by 
the emissaries of Sapor, king of Persia. The patriotic 
satraps of Armenia, who asserted the freedom and dignity 
of the crown, implored the protection of Rome in favor of 
Tiridates the lawful heir. But the son of Chosroes was an 
infant, the allies were at a distance, and the Persian 
monarch advanced towards the frontier at the head of an 
irresistible force. Young Tiridates, the future hope of his 
country, was saved by the fidelity of a servant, and Arme- 
nia continued above twenty-seven years a reluctant province 
of the great monarchy of Persia. 134 Elated with his easy 
conquest, and presuming on the distresses or the degeneracy 
of the Romans, Sapor obliged the strong garrisons of 
Carrhae and Nisibis* to surrender, and spread devastation 
and terror on either side of the Euphrates. 

The loss of an important frontier, the ruin of a faithful 
and natural ally, and the rapid success of Sapor's ambition, 
affected Rome with a deep sense of the insult as w r ell as of 
the danger. Valerian flattered himself that the vigilance 
of his lieutenants would sufficiently provide for the safety 
of the Rhine and of the Danube ; but he resolved, notwith- 
standing his advanced age, to march in person to the de- 
fence of the Euphrates. During his progress through Asia 
Minor the naval enterprises of the Goths were suspended, 
and the afflicted province enjoyed a transient and fallacious 
calm. He passed the Euphrates, encountered the Persian 
monarch near the walls of Edessa, was vanquished, and 
taken prisoner by Sapor. The particulars of this great 

134 Moses Chorenensis, 1. ii. c. 71, 73, 74. Zonaras ? 1. xii. p. 628. The authen- 
tic relation of the Armenian historian serves to rectify the confused account of 
the Greek. The latter talks of the children of Tiridates, who at that time was 
himself an infant. [Compare St. Martin, Memoires sur l'Armenie, i. p. 301.— M.] 

* Nisibis, according to Persian authors, was taken by a miracle ; the wall fell, 
in compliance wiUi the prayers of the army. Malcolm > Persia i. 7G.— M. 


event are darkly .and imperfectly represented ; yet, by the 
glimmering light which is afforded us, we may discover a 
long series of imprudence, of error, and of deserved misfor- 
tunes on the side of the Roman emperor. lie reposed an 
implicit confidence in Macrianus, his Praetorian praefect. 135 
That worthless minister rendered his master formidable only 
to the. oppressed subjects, and contemptible to the enemies, 
of Rome. 138 By his weak or wicked counsels the Imperial 
army was betrayed into a situation where valor and military 
skill were equally unavailing. 137 The vigorous attempt of 
the Romans to cut their way through the Persian host was 
repulsed with great slaughter ; 138 and Sapor, who encom- 
passed the camp with superior numbers, patiently waited 
till the increasing rage of famine and pestilence had insured 
his victory. The licentious murmurs of the legions soon 
accused Valerian as the cause of their calamities ; their sc 
ditious clamors demanded an instant capitulation. An im- 
mense sum of gold was offered to purchase the permission 
of a disgraceful retreat. But the Persian, conscious of his 
superiority, refused the money with disdain ; and, detaining 
the deputies, advanced in order of battle to the foot of the 
Roman rampart, and insisted on a personal conference with 
the emperor. Valerian was reduced to the necessity of in- 
trusting his life and dignity to the faith of an enemy. The 
interview ended as it was natural to expect. The emperor 
was made a prisoner, and his astonished troops laid down 
their arms. 139 In such a moment of triumph, the pride and 
policy of Sapor prompted him to' fill the vacant throne with 
a successor entirely dependent on his pleasure. Cyriades, 
an obscure fugitive of Antioch, stained with every vice, was 
chosen to dishonor the Roman purple ; and the will of the 
Persian victor could not fail of being ratified by the accla- 
mations, however reluctant, of the captive army. 140 

The Imperial slave was eager to secure the favor of his 
master by an act of treason to his native country. He con- 
ducted Sapor over the Euphrates, and, by the way of Chal- 
cis, to the metropolis of the East. So rapid were the mo- 

135 Hist. Aug. p. 19t. As Macrianus was an enemy to the Christians, they 
charged him with being a magician. 

iuu Zusim.iS, 1. i. p. 33. 137 Hist. Aug. p. 174. 

138 Victor in Ca±sar. Eutropius, ix. 7. 

139 Zosimus, 1. i. p. 33. Zonaras, 1. xii. p. 630. Peter Patricius, in the Excerp- 
ta Legat. p. 2i). 

li0 Hist. August, p. 185. The reign of Cyriades appears in that collection prior 
to the death of Valerian ; but I have preferred a probable series of events to the 
doubtful chronology of a most inaccurai-e writer. 


tions of the Persian cavalry, that, if we may credit a very 
judicious historian, 141 the city of Antioch was surprised when 
the idle multitude was fondly gazing on the amusements of 
the theatre. The splendid buildings of Antioch, private as 
well as public, were either pillaged or destroyed : and the 
numerous inhabitants were put to the sword, or led away 
into captivity. 142 The tide of devastation was stopped for 
a moment by the resolution of the high priest of Emesa. 
Arrayed in his sacerdotal robes, he appeared at the head of 
a great body of fanatic peasants, armed only with slings, 
and defended his god and his property from the sacrilegious 
hands of the followers of Zoroaster. 143 But the ruin of 
Tarsus, and of many other cities, furnishes a melancholy 
proof that, except in this singular instance, the conquest of 
Syria and Cilicia scarcely interrupted the progress of the 
Persian arms. The advantages of the narrow passes of 
Mount Taurus were abandoned, in which an invader, whose 
principal force consisted in his cavalry, would have been 
engaged in a very unequal combat ; and Sapor was permit- 
ted to form the siege of Cffisarea, the capital of Cappadocia ; 
a city, though of the second rank, which was supposed to 
contain four hundred thousand inhabitants. Demosthenes 
commanded in the place, not so much by the commission of 
the emperor as in the voluntary defence of his country. 
For a long time he deferred its fate ; and when at last Ca> 
sarea was betrayed by the perfidy of a physician, he cut his 
way through the Persians, who had been ordered to exert 
their utmost diligence to take him alive. This heroic chief 
escaped the power of a foe who might either have honored 
or punished his obstinate valor ; but many thousands of his 
fellow-citizens were involved in a general massacre, and 
Sapor is accused of treating his prisoners witli wanton and 
unrelenting cruelty. 144 Much should undoubtedly be allowed 
for national animosity, much for humbled pride and impo-' 
tent revenge ; yet, upon the whole, it is certain, that the 

141 The sack of Antioch, anticipated by some historians, is assigned, by the de- 
cisive testimony of Ammianus Marcellimis, to the reign of (jallienus, xxiii. 5.* 

u - Zosimus, 1. i. p. 35. 

Ui John Malala, torn. i. p. 391. lie corrupts this probable event by some fabu- 
lous ciivurnstances. 

m Zonoias, 1. xii. p. 630. Deep valleys were filled up with the slain. Crowds 
of prisoners were driven to water lL;e beasts, and many perished for want of 

* Heyne. in his note on Zo.-.imus, contests this opinion of Gibbon ; and ob- 
serves, that the testimony of Amnuanus is in fact by no means clear or decisive. 
Gallienus and Valerian reigned together. Zosimus, in a second pas.: age, 1. iii. 32, 
8, distinctly places this event before the capture of Valerian. — M. 


same prince, who, in Armenia, had displayed the mild as- 
pect of a legislator, showed himself to the Romans under 
the stern features of a conqueror. He despaired of making 
any permanent establishment in the empire, and sought 
only to leave behind him a wasted desert, whilst he trans- 
ported into Persia the people and the treasures of the prov- 
inces. 1 " 5 

At the time when the East trembled at the name of 
Sapor, he received a present not unworthy of the greatest 
kings; a long train of camels, laden with the most rare and 
valuable merchandises. The rich offering was accompanied 
with an epistle, respectful, but not servile, from Odenathus, 
one of the noblest and most opulent senators of Palmyra. 
"Who is this Odenathus " (said the haughty victor, and he 
commanded that the presents should be cast into the Eu- 
phrates), "that he thus insolently presumes to write to his 
lord ? If he entertains a hope of mitigating his punish- 
ment, let him fall prostrate before the foot of our throne, 
with his hands bound behind his back. Should he hesitate, 
swift destruction shall be poured on his head, on his whole 
race, and on his country." 146 The desperate extremity to 
which the Palmyrenian was reduced called into action all 
the latent powers of his soul. He met Sapor ; but he met 
him in arms. Infusing his own spirit into a little army col- 
lected from the villages of Syria 147 and the tents of the des- 
ert, 148 he hovered round the Persian host, harassed their 
retreat, carried off part of the treasure, and, what was 
dearer than any treasure, several of the women of the great 
king ; who was at last obliged to repass the Euphrates with 
some marks of haste and confusion. 149 By this exploit 
Odenathus laid the foundations of his future fame and for- 
tunes. The majesty of Rome, oppressed by a Persian, was 
protected by a Syrian or Arab of Palmyra. 

The voice of history, which is often little more than the 
organ of hatred or flattery, reproaches Sapor with a proud 
abuse of the rights of conquest. We are told that Valerian, 
in chains, but invested with the Imperial purple, was exposed 

145 Zosimus, 1. i. p. 25, asserts, that Sapor, had he not preferred spoil to con- 
quest, might have remained master of Asia. 

140 Peter Patricias in Excerpt. Leg. p. 2!>. 

147 Syrorum a maim. Sextus Kufus, c. 23. Rufus, Victor, the Augus- 
tan History (p. PJ2), and several inscriptions, agree in making Odenathus a citizen 
of Palmyra. 

14i He possos^-" \ so powerful an interest among the wandering tribe : , thatPro- 
copius (Bell. Per. io. 1. ii. c. 0) and John Malala (torn. i. p. J01) style him Prmce of 
the Saracens. 

i*» Peter Patricius, p. 25. 


to the multitude, a constant spectacle of fallen greatness ; 
and that, whenever the Persian monarch mounted on horse- 
back, lie placed his foot on the neck of a Roman emperor. 
Notwithstanding all the remonstrances of his allies, who 
repeatedly advised him to remember the vicissitudes of 
fortune, to dread the returning power of Rome, and to 
make his illustrious captive the pledge of peace, not the 
object of insult, Sapor still remained inflexible. When 
Valerian sunk under the weight of shame and grief, his skin, 
stuffed with straw, and formed into the likeness of a human 
figure, was preserved for ages in the most celebrated temple 
of Persia ; a more real monument of triumph than the 
fancied trophies of brass and marble so often erected by 
Roman vanity. 150 The tale is moral and pathetic, but the 
truthf of it may very fairly be called in question. The 
letters still extant from the princes of the East to Sapor 
are manifest forgeries ; 151 nor is it natural to suppose that 
a jealous monarch should, even in the person of a rival, 
thus publicly degrade, the majesty of kings. Whatever 
treatment the unfortunate Valerian might experience in 
Persia, it is at least certain that the only emperor of Rome 
who had ever fallen into the hands of the enemy languished 
away his life in hopeless captivity. 

• The emperor Gallienus, who had long supported with 
impatience the censorial severity of his father and colleague, 
received the intelligence of his misfortunes with secret pleas- 
ure and avowed indifference. "I knew that my father was 
a mortal," said he ; " and since he has acted as becomes a 
brave man, I am satisfied." Whilst Rome lamented the fate 
of her sovereign, the savage coldness of his son was extolled 
by the servile courtiers as the perfect firmness of a hero and 
a stoic. 152 It is difficult to paint the light, the various, the 
inconstant character of Gallienus, which he displayed with- 

150 The Pagan writers lament, the Christian insult, the misfortunes of Valerian. 
Their various testimonies are accurately collected hy Tillemoiit, torn. iii. p. 73i», 
&c. So little has been preserved of eastern history before Mahomet, that the 
modern Persians are totally ignorant of the victory of Sapor, an event so glorious 
to their nation. See Bibliotheqne Orientale.* 

151 One of these epistles is from Artavasdes, king of Armenia ; since Armenia 
was then a province of Persia, the king, the kingdom, and the epistle must be lic- 

152 See his life in the Augustan History. 

* Malcolm appears to write from Persian authorities, i. 7(5. — M. 

1 Yet Gibi;on himself records a speech of the emperor Galerius, which alludes 
to the cruelties exercised against the living, and the indignities to which they 
exposed the dead Valerian, ch. 13. Respect for the kingly character would by no 
means prevent an eastern monarch from gratifying his pride and his vengeance 

fin u fa 11 on f/it> Yf ° 

on a fallen foe.— M. 


out constraint, as soon as he became sole possessor of the 
empire. In every art that he attempted, his lively genius 
enabled him to succeed ; and as his genius was destitute of 
judgment, he attempted every art, except the important 
ones of war and government. He was a master of several 
curious, but useless sciences, a ready orator, an elegant 
poet, 153 a skilful gardener, an excellent cook, and most con- 
temptible prince. When the great emergencies of the state 
required his presence and attention, he was engaged in con- 
versation with the philosopher Plotinus, 154 wasting his time 
in trifling or licentious pleasures, preparing his initiation to 
the Grecian mysteries, or soliciting a place in the Areopagus 
of Athens. His profuse magnificence insulted the general 
poverty ; the solemn ridicule of his triumphs impressed a 
deeper sense of the public disgrace. 155 The repeated intelli- 
gence of invasions, defeats, and rebellions he received with 
a careless smile, and singling out, with affected contempt, 
some particular production of the lost province, he carelessly 
asked whether Rome must be ruined, unless it was supplied 
with linen from Egypt, and Arras cloth from Gaul. There 
were, however, a few short moments in the life of Gallienus 
when, exasperated by some recent injury, he suddenly 
appeared the intrepid soldier and the cruel tyrant ; till, 
satiated with blood, or fatigued by resistance, he insensibly 
sunk into the natural mildness and indolence of his char- 
acter. 156 

At the time when the reins of government were held 

153 There is still extant a very pretty Epithalamium, composed by Gallienus 
for the nuptials of his nephews : — 

" Ite ait, O Juvenes, pariter sudate medullis 
Omnibus, inter vos : non murmura vestra eolumbae, 
Braehia non hederne, non vincant oscula concha?." 

154 He was on the point of giving Plotinus a ruined city of Campania to try the 
experiment of realizing Plato's Republic. See the life of Plotinus, by Porphyry, 
in Fabricius's Biblioth. Graec. 1. iv. 

15i A medal which bears the head of Gallienus has perplexed the antiquarians 
by its legend and reverse ; the former Gallietue Augusta, the latter Ubiqiie J'ax. 
M. Spanheim supposes that the coin was struck by some of the enemies of Gal- 
lienus, and was designed as a severe satire on that effeminate prince. But as the 
use of irony may seem unworthy of the gravity of the Roman mint, M. de Valle- 
mont has deduced from a passage of Trebellius Pollio (Hist. Aug. p. l£fc) an inge- 
nious and natural solution. Gat lima was first cousin to the emperor. By deliv- 
ering Africa from the usurper C'elsus. she deserved the title of Augusta. On a 
medal in the French king's collection, we read a similar inscription of Faustina 
Aunusta round the head of Marcus Aurelius. With regard to the Ublque Par, it 
is easily explained by the vanity of Gallienus, who seized, perhaps, the occasion 
of some momentary calm. See Nouvelles de la Kepublique des Lettres, Janvier, 
1700, pp. 21-34. 

liC lids singular character has, I believe, been fairly transmitted to us. The 
reign of his immediate successor was short and busy ; and the historians who 
wrote before the elevation of the family of Constantine could not have the 
most remote interest to misrepresent the character of Gallienus. 


with so loose a hand, it is not surprising that a crowd of 
usurpers should start up in every province of the empire 
against the son of Valerian. It was probably some inge- 
nious fancy, of comparing the thirty tyrants of Rome with 
the thirty tyrants of Athens, that induced the writers of the 
Augustan History to select that celebrated number, which 
has been gradually received into a popular appellation. 157 
But in every lightthe parallel is idle and defective. What 
resemblance can we discover between a council of thirty 
persons, the united oppressors of a single city, and an uncer- 
tain list of independent rivals, who rose and fell in irregular 
succession through the extent of a vast empire? Nor can 
the number of thirty be completed, unless we include in the 
account the women and children who were honored with 
the Imperial title. The reign of Gallienus, distracted as it 
was, produced only nineteen pretenders to the throne : 
Cyriades, Macrianus, Balista, Odenathus, and Zenobia, in 
the East; in Gaul, and the western provinces, Posthumus, 
Lollianus, Vietorinus, and his mother Victoria, Marius, and 
Tetricus ; in Illyricum and the confines of the Danube, In- 
genuus, Regillianus, and Aureolus ; in Pontus, 158 Saturninus ; 
in Isauria, Trebellianus ; Piso in Thessaly ; Valens in 
Achaia ; ^Emilianus in Egypt ; and Celsus in Africa. f To 
illustrate the obscure monuments of the life and death of 
each individual would prove a laborious task, alike barren 
of instruction and of amusement. We may content our- 
selves with investigating some general characters, that most 
strongly mark the condition of the times and the manners 

157 Pollio expresses the most minute anxiety to complete the number.* 
™* The place of his reign is somewhat doubtful ; but there was a tyrant in 
Pontus, and we are acquainted with the seat of all the others. 

* Compare a dissertation of Manso on the thirty tyrants, at the end of his 

Leben Constantins des Grossen. Breslau, 1817. — M. 

t Captain Smyth, in his •' Catalogue of Medals," p. 307, substitutes two new 

names to make up the number of nineteen, for those of Odenathus and Zenobia. 

He subjoins this list : — 

1. 2. 3. 

Of those whose coins Those whose coins Those of whom no 

are undoubtedly true. are suspected. coins are known. 

Posthumus. Cyriades. Valens. 

Laclianus (Lollianus- G.). Ingenuus. Balista. 

Vietorinus. Celsus. Saturninus. 

Marius. Piso Frugi. Trebellianus. 

Tetricus. — M. 1845. 



Pegalianus {Regillianus. G. 

Alex. JEmilianus. 


Stilpicius Antoninus, 



of the men, their pretensions, their motives, their fate, and 
the destructive consequences of their usurpation. 159 

It is sufficiently known that the odious appellation of 
Tyrant was often employed by the ancients to express the 
illegal seizure of supreme power, without any reference to 
the abuse of it. Several of the pretenders, who raised the 
standard of rebellion against the emperor Gallienus, were 
shining models of virtue, and almost all possessed a consid- 
erable share of vigor and ability. Their merit had recom- 
mended them to the favor of Valerian, and gradually pro- 
moted them to the most important commands of the empire. 
The generals, who assumed the title of Augustus, were 
either respected by their troops for their able conduct and 
severe discipline, or admired for valor and success in war, or 
beloved for frankness and generosity. The field of victory 
was often the scene of their election ; and even the armorer 
Marius, the most contemptible of all the con dictates for the 
purple, was distinguished, however, by intrepid courage, 
matchless strength, and blunt honesty. 100 His mean and re- 
cent trade cast, indeed, an air of ridicule on his elevation ; * 
but his birth could not be more obscure than was that of the 
greater part of his rivals, who were born of peasants, and 
enlisted in the army as private soldiers. In times of confu- 
sion every active genius finds the place assigned him by 
nature : in a general state of war military merit is the road 
to glory and to greatness. Of the nineteen tyrants, Tetri- 
cus only was a senator ; Piso alone was a noble. The blood 
of Nuraa, through twenty-eight successive generations, ran 
in the veins of Calphurnius Piso, 161 who, by female alliances, 
claimed a right of exhibiting, in his house, the images of 
Crassus and of the great Pompey. 102 His ancestors had 
been repeatedly dignified with all the honors which the 
commonwealth could bestow ; and of all the ancient families 

159 Tillemont, torn, iii. p. 1163, reckons them somewhat differently. 

160 See the speech of Marius in the Augustan History, p. 197. The accidental 
identity of names was the only circumstance that could tempt Pollio to imitate 

lei « vos, O Pompilius sanguis ! " is Horace's address to the Pisos. See Art. 
Poet. v. 202, with Dacier's andSanadon's notes. 

162 Tacit. Annal. xv. 18. Hist. i. 15. In the former of these passages we may 
venture to change palerna into materna. In every generation from Augustus to 
Alexander Severus, one or more Pisos appear as consuls. A Piso was deemed 
worthy of the throne hy Augustus (Tacit. Annal. i. 13); a second headed a for- 
midable conspiracy against Nero ; and u, third was adopted, and declared Cresar. 
by Galba. 

* Marias was killed by a soldier, who had formerly served as a workman in 
bis shop, and who exclaimed, as he struck, " Behold the sword which thyself 
bast forged." Treb. in Vita.— G. 


of Rome, the Calphurnian alone had survived the tyranny of 
the Caesars. The personal qualities of Piso added new 
lustre to his race. The usurper Valens, by whose orders he 
was killed, confessed, with deep remorse, that even an 
enemy ought to have respected the sanctity of Piso ; and 
although he died in arms against Gallienus, the senate, with 
the emperor's generous permission, decreed the triumphal 
ornaments to the memory of so virtuous a rebel. 163 

The lieutenants of Valerian were grateful to the father, 
whom they esteemed. They disdained to serve the lux- 
urious indolence of his unworthy son. The throne of the 
Roman world was unsupported by any principle of loyalty, 
and treason against such a prince might easily be considered 
as patriotism to the state. Yet if we examine with candor 
the conduct of these usurpers, it will appear, that they were 
much oftener driven into rebellion by their fears than urged 
to it by their ambition-. They dreaded the cruel suspicions 
of Gallienus : they equally dreaded the capricious violence 
of their troops. If the dangerous favor of the army had im- 
prudently declared them deserving of the purple, they were 
marked for sure destruction ; and even prudence would 
counsel them to secure a short enjoyment of empire, and 
rather to try the fortune of war than to expect the hand of 
an executioner. When the clamor of the soldiers invested 
the reluctant victims with the ensigns of sovereign authority, 
they sometimes mourned in secret their approaching fate. 
"You have lost," said Saturn in us, on the day of his eleva- 
tion, — " you have lost a useful commander, and you have 
made a very wretched emperor." 164 

The apprehensions of Saturninus were justified by the 
repeated experience of revolutions. Of the nineteen tyrants 
who started up under the reign of Gallienus, there was not 
one who enjoyed a life of peace, or a nntural death. As 
soon as they were invested with the bloody purple, they in- 
spired their adherents with the same fears and ambition 
which had occasioned their own revolt. Encompassed with 
domestic conspiracy, military sedition, and civil war, they 
trembled on the edge of precipices, in which, after a longer 
or shorter term of anxiety, they were inevitably lost. These 
precarious monarchs received, however, such honors as the 
flattery of their respective armies and provinces could be- 
stow ; but their claim, founded on rebellion, could never 

163 Hist. August, p. 195. The Senate, in a moment of enthusiasm, seems to 
have presumed on the approbation of Gallienus. 104 Hist. August, p. 196. 


obtain the sanction of law or history. Italy, Rome, and 
the senate, constantly adhered to the cause of Gallienns, and 
he alone was considered as the sovereign of the empire. 
That prince condescended, indeed, to acknowledge the vic- 
torious arms of Odenathus, who deserved the honorable dis- 
tinction by the respectful conduct which he always main- 
tained towards the son of Valerian. With the general ap- 
plause of the Romans, and the consent of Gallienns, the 
senate conferred the title of Augustus on the brave Palmy- 
renian ; and seemed to intrust him with the government of 
the East, which he already possessed, in so independent a 
manner, that, like a private succession, he bequeathed it to 
his illustrious widow, Zenobia. 165 

The rapid and perpetual transitions from the cottage to 
the throne, and from the throne to the grave, might have 
amused an indifferent philosopher, were it possible for a 
philosopher to remain indifferent amidst the general calam- 
ities of human kind. The election of these precarious em- 
perors, their power and their death, were equally destruc- 
tive to their subjects and adherents. The price of their 
fatal elevation was instantly discharged to the troops by an 
immense donative drawn from the bowels of the exhausted 
people. However virtuous was their character, however 
pure their intentions, they found themselves reduced to the 
hard necessity of supporting their usurpation by frequent 
acts of rapine and cruelty. When they fell they involved 
armies and provinces in their fall. There is still extant a 
most savage mandate from Gallienus to one of his ministers, 
after the suppression of Ingenuus, who had assumed the 
purple in Illyricum. " It is not enough," says that soft but 
inhuman prince, "that you exterminate such as have ap- 
peared in arms ; the chance of battle might have served me 
as effectually. The male sex of every age must be extir- 
pated ; provided that, in the execution of the children and 
old men, you can contrive means to save our reputation. 
Let every one die who has dropped an expression, who has 
entertained a thought against me, against me, the son of 
Valerian, the father and brother of so many princes. 166 Re- 

166 The association of the brave Palmyrenian was the most popular act of the 
whole reign of Gallienus. Hist. August, p. 180. 

ico Gallienus had given the titles of Caesar and Augustus to his foii Saloninus, 
slain at Cologne by the usurper Posthumns. A second son of Gallienus suc- 
ceeded to the name and rank of his elder brother. Valerian, the brother of Gal- 
lienus, was also associated to the emuire : several other brothers, sisters, 
nephews, and nieces of the emperor formed a very numerous royal family. See 
Tillemont, torn, iii., and M. de Brequigny in the Memoires de rAcaderaie* torn. 
ssxxii. p. ^62. . . 


member that Ingenuus was made emperor ; tear, kill, hew 
in pieces. I write to you with my own hand, and would 
inspire you with my owm feelings." 167 Whilst the public 
forces of the state were dissipated in private quarrels, the 
defenceless provinces lay exposed to every invader. The 
bravest usurpers were compelled, by the perplexity of their 
situation, to conclude ignominous treaties with the common 
enemy, to purchase with oppressive tributes the neutrality 
or services of the Barbarians and to introduce hostile and 
independent nations into the heart of the Roman mon- 
archy. 108 

Such were the barbarians, and such the tyrants, who, un- 
der the reigns of Valerian and Gallienus, dismembered the 
provinces, and reduced the empire to the lowest pitch of 
disgrace and ruin, from whence it seemed impossible that 
it should ever emerge. As far as the barrenness of materials 
would permit, we have attempted to trace, with order and 
perspicuity, the general events of that calamitous period. 
There still remain some particular facts : I. The disorders 
of Sicily ; II. The tumults of Alexandria ; and, III. The 
rebellion of the Isaurians, which may serve to reflect a 
strong light on the horrid picture. 

I. Whenever numerous troops of banditti, multiplied by 
success and impunity, publicly defy, instead of eluding, the 
justice of their country, we may safely infer that the ex- 
cessive weakness of the country is felt and abused by the 
lowest ranks of the community. The situation of Sicily 
preserved it from the Barbarians; nor could the disarmed 
province have supported a usurper. The sufferings of that 
once flourishing and still fertile island were inflicted by 
baser hands. A licentious crowd of slaves and peasants 
reigned for a while over the plundered country, and 
renewed the memory of the servile wars of more ancient 
times. 109 Devastations, of which the husbandman was 
either the victim or the accomplice, must have ruined the 
agriculture of Sicily ; and as the principal estates were the 
property of the opulent senators of Rome, who often en- 
closed within a farm the territory of an old republic, it is 
not improbable, that this private injury might affect the 

«* Hist. August, p. 188. 

168 Regillianus had some bands of Roxolani in his service ; Posthumus a body 
of Franks. It was, perhaps, in the character of auxiliaries that the latter intro- 
duced themselves into Spain. 

lc0 The Augustan History, p. 177, calls it servile helium. See Diodor. Sicul. 
1. xxxiv. 


capital more deeply than all the conquests of the Goths or 
the Persians. 

II. The foundation of Alexandria was a noble design, at 
once conceived and executed by the son of Philip. The 
beautiful and regular form of that great city, second only to 
Rome itself, comprehended a circumference of fifteen 
miles; 170 it was peopled by three hundred thousand free 
inhabitants, besides at least an equal number of slaves. 171 
The lucrative trade of Arabia and India flowed through the 
port of Alexandria to the capital and provinces of the em- 
pire.* Idleness was unknown. Some were employed in 
blowing of glass, others in weaving of linen, others again 
manufacturing the papyrus. Either sex, and every age, 
was engaged in the pursuits of industry, nor did even the 
blind or the lame want occupations suited to their condi- 
tion. 172 But the people of Alexandria, a various mixture of 
nations, united the vanity and inconstancy of the Greeks 
with the superstition and obstinacy of the Egyptians. The 
most trifling occasion, a transient scarcity of flesh or lentils, 
the neglect of an accustomed salutation, a mistake of pre- 
cedency in the public baths, or even a religious dispute, 173 
were at any time sufficient to kindle a sedition among that 
vast multitude, whose resentments were furious and implac- 
able. 174 After the captivity of Valerian and the insolence 
of his son had relaxed the authority of the laws, the Alexan- 
drians abandoned themselves to the ungoverned rage of 
their passions, and their unhappy country was the theatre 
of a civil war, which continued (with a few short and sus- 
picious truces) above twelve years. 175 All intercourse was 
cut oil between the several quarters of the afflicted city, 
every street was polluted with blood, every building of 
strength converted into a citadel ; nor did the tumults 
subside till a considerable part of Alexandria was irre- 

t» Plin. Hist. Natur. v. 10. 

1 71 Diodor. Sicul. 1. xvii. p. 590, edit. Wesseling. 

172 See a very curious letter of Hadrian, in the Augustan History, p. 245. 

173 Such as the sacrilegious murder of a divine cat. See Diodor. Sicul. 1. i.t 

174 Hist. August, p. 105. This long and terrible sedition was first occasioned 
by a dispute between a soldier and a townsman about a pair of shoes. 

i<"' Dionysius apud Euseb. Hist. Ecclos. vii. c. 21. Ammian. xxii. 16. 

* Berenice, or Myos-Hormos, on the Red Sea, received the eastern commodi- 
ties. From thence they were transported to the Isile, and down the Jvile to 
Alexandria. — M. 

t The hostility between the Jewish and Grecian part of the population, after- 
wards between the two former and the Christian, were unfailing causes of tu- 
mult, sedition, and massacre. In no place were the religious disputes, after the 
establishment of Christianity, more frequent or more sanguinary. See Philo. de 
Legat. Hist, of Jews, ii. 171, iii. Ill, 198. Gibbon, iii. c. xxi. viii. c. xlvii.— M. 


trievably ruined. The spacious and magnificent district 
of Bruchion,* with its palaces and musaeum, the residence 
of the kings and philosophers of Egypt, is described, above 
a century afterwards, as already reduced to its present state 
of dreary solitude. 170 

III. The obscure rebellion of Trebellianus, who assumed 
the purple in Isauria, a petty province of Asia Minor, was 
attended with strange and memorable consequences. The 
pageant of royalty was soon destroyed by an officer of Gal- 
lienus; but his followers, despairing of mercy, resolved to 
shake off their allegiance, not only to the emperor, but to 
the empire, and suddenly returned to the savage manners 
from which they had never perfectly been reclaimed. Their 
craggy rocks, a branch of the wide-extended Taurus, pro- 
tected their inaccessible retreat. The tillage of some fer- 
tile valleys 177 supplied them with necessaries, and a habit of 
rapine with the luxuries of life. In the heart of the Roman 
monarchy, the Isaurians long continued a nation of wild 
barbarians. Succeeding princes, unable to reduce them to 
obedience, either by arms or policy, were compelled to 
acknowledge their weakness by surrounding the hostile 
and independent spot with a strong chain of fortifica- 
tions, 178 which often proved insufficient to restrain the in- 
cursions of these domestic foes. The Isaurians, gradually 
extending their territory to the sea-coast, subdued the west- 
ern and mountainous part of Cilicia, formerly the nest of 
those daring pirates against whom the republic had once 
been obliged to exert its utmost force, under the conduct of 
the great Pompey. 179 

Our habits of thinking so fondly connect the order of the 
universe with the fate of man, that this gloomy period of 
history has been decorated with inundations, earthquakes, 
uncommon meteors, preternatural darkness, and a crowd 
of prodigies fictitious or exaggerated. 180 But a long and 
general famine was a calamity of a more serious kind. It 
was the inevitable consequence of rapine and oppression, 
which extirpated the produce of the present and the hope 

17(3 Scaliger. Animadver. ad Euseb. Chron. p. 258. Three dissertations of M. 
Bonamy, in the Mem. de l'Academie. torn. ix. 

i-7 Strabo, 1. xiii. p. 56!). i"8 Hist. August, p. 197. 

i" 3 See Cellarius, Geogr. Antiq. torn. ii. p. 137, upon the limits of Isauria. 
iso Hist. August, p. 177. 

* The Bruchion was a quarter of Alexandria which extended along the largest 
of the two ports, and contained many palaces inhabited by the Ptolemies. 
D'Anv- Geogr. Anc. iii. 10. — G. 


of future harvests. Famine is almost always followed 
by epidemical diseases, the effect of scanty and unwhole- 
some food. Other causes must, however, have contributed 
to the furious plague, which, from the year two hundred 
and fifty to the year two hundred and sixty-five, raged 
"without interruption in every province, every city, and al- 
most every family, of the Roman empire. During some 
time five thousand persons died daily in Rome; and many 
towns, that had escaped the hands of the Barbarians, were 
entirely depopulated. 181 

We have the knowledge of a very curious circumstance, 
of some use perhaps in the melancholy calculation of human 
calamities. An exact register was kept at Alexandria of all 
the citizens entitled to receive the distribution of corn. It 
was found that the ancient number of those comprised be- 
tween the ages of forty and seventy had been equal to the 
whole sum of claimants, from fourteen to fourscore years of 
age, who remained alive after the reign of Gallienus. 18 * 2 Ap- 
plying this authentic fact to the most correct tables of mor- 
tality*, it evidently proves that al\>ve half the people of Alex- 
andria had perished ; and could we venture to extend the 
analogy to the other provinces, we might suspect that war, 
pestilence, and famine, had consumed, in a few yearsj the 
moiety of the human species. 188 

181 Hist. August, p. 177. Zosimus, 1. i. p. 24. Zonaras, 1. xii. p. 623. Euseb. 
Chronicon. Victor in Epitom. Victor in Ciesar. Eutropius, ix. 5. Orosius, 
vii. 21. 

18 '-' Euseb. Hist. Eccles. vii. 21. Tbe fact is taken from the Letters of Diony- 
sius, who, in tbe time of those troubles, was bishop of Alexandria. 

183 In a great number of parishes, 11,000 persons were found between fourteen 
and eighty ; 5365 between forty and seventy. See Buffon, Histoire Naturelle, 
torn. ii. p. 590. 





Under the deplorable reigns of Valerian and Gallienus 
the empire was oppressed and almost destroyed by the sol- 
diers, the tyrants, and the barbarians. It was saved by a 
series of great princes, who derived their obscure origin from 
the martial provinces of Illyricum. Within a period of about 
thirty years, Claudius, Aurelian, Probus, Diocletian and his 
colleagues, triumphed over the foreign and domestic enemies 
of the state, reestablished, with the military discipline, the 
strength of the frontiers, and deserved the erlorious title of 
Restorers of the Roman world. 

The removal of an effeminate tyrant made way for a 
succession of heroes. The indignation of the people imputed 
all their calamities to Gallienus, and the far greater part were, 
indeed, the consequence of his dissolute manners and careless 
administration. He was even destitute of a sense of honor, 
which so frequently supplies the absence of public virtue ; 
and as long as he was permitted to enjoy the possession of 
Italy, a victory of the barbarians, the loss of a province, or 
the rebellion of a general, seldom disturbed the tranquil 
course of his pleasures. At length, a considerable army, 
stationed on the Upper Danube, invested with the Imperial 
purple their leader Aureolus ; who, disdaining a confined and 
barren reign over the mountains of RhaHia, passed the Alps, 
occupied Milan, threatened Rome, and challenged Gallienus 
to dispute in the field the sovereignty of Italy. The emperor, 
provoked by the insult, and alarmed by the instant danger, 
suddenly exerted that latent vigor which sometimes broke 
through the indolence of his temper. Forcing himself from 
the luxury of the palace, he appeared in arms at the head of 
his legions, and advanced beyond the Po to encounter his 
competitor. The corrupted name of Pontirolo x still pre- 

i Pons Aurenli, thirteen miles from Bergamo, and thirty-two from Milan. See 
Cluver. Italia Antiq. torn. i. p. 345. Near this place, in the year 1703, the obsti- 
nate battle of Cassano was fought between the French and Austrians. The ex- 


serves the memory of a bridge over the Adda, which, during 
the action, must have proved an object of the utmost im- 
portance to both armies. The Rhsetian usurper, after re- 
ceiving a total defeat and a dangerous wound, retired into 
Milan. The siege of that great city was immediately formed ; 
the walls were battered with every engine in use among the 
ancients ; and Aureolus, doubtful of his internal strength, 
and hopeless of foreign succors, already anticipated the fatal 
consequences of unsuccessful rebellion. 

His last resource was an attempt to seduce the loyalty of 
the besiegers. He scattered libels through the camp, inviting 
the troops to desert an unworthy master, who sacrificed the 
public happiness to his luxury, and the lives of his most valu- 
able subjects to the slightest suspicions. The arts of Aureolus 
diffused fears and discontent among the principal officers of 
his rival. A conspiracy was formed by Heraclianus, the 
Praetorian praefecf, by Marcian, a general of rank and repu- 
tation, and by Cecrops, who commanded a numerous body 
of Dalmatian guards. The death of Gallienus was resolved ; 
and, notwithstanding their desire of first terminating the 
siege of Milan, the extreme danger which accompanied every 
moment's delay obliged them to hasten the execution of their 
daring purpose. At a late hour of the night, but while the 
emperor still protracted the pleasures of the table, an alarm 
was suddenly given, that Aureolus, at the head of all his 
forces, had made a desperate sally from the town ; Gallienus, 
■who was never deficient in personal bravery, started from his 
silken couch, and without allowing himself time either to put 
on his armor, or to assemble his guards, he mounted on horse- 
back, and rode full speed to the supposed place of the attack. 
Encompassed by his declared or concealed enemies, he soon, 
amidst the nocturnal tumult, received a mortal dart from an 
uncertain hand. Before he expired, a patriotic sentiment 
rising in the mind of Gallienus induced him to name a de- 
serving successor; and it was his last request that the Impe- 
rial ornaments should be delivered to Claudius, who then 
commanded a detached army in the neighborhood of Pavia. 
The report at least was diligently propagated, and the order 
cheerfully obeyed by the conspirators, who had already 
agreed to place Claudius on the throne. On the first news 
of the emperor's death the troops expressed some suspicion 
and resentment, till the one was removed, and the other as- 

cellent relation of the Chevalier de Folard, who was rressnt, gives a very dis- 
tinct idea of the ground. See Polybe de Folard, torn. iii. p. 223-248. 


suaged, by a donative of twenty pieces of gold to each sol- 
dier. They then ratified the election, and acknowledged the 
merit of their new sovereign. 2 

The obscurity which covered the origin of Claudius, 
though it was afterwards embellished by some flattering fic- 
tions, 3 sufficiently betrays the meanness of his birth. We 
can only discover that he was a native of one of the prov- 
inces bordering on the Danube; that his youth was spent in 
arms, and that his modest valor attracted the favor and con- 
fidence of Decius. The senate and people already considered 
him as an excellent officer, equal to the most important trusts ; 
and censured the inattention of Valerian, who suffered him 
to remain in the subordinate station of a tribune. But it was 
not long before that emperor distinguished the merit of 
Claudius, by declaring him general and chief of the Illyrian 
frontier, with the command of all the troops in Thrace, 
Magsia, Dacia, Pannonia, and Dalmatia, the appointments of 
the prsefect of Egypt, the establishment of the proconsul of 
Africa, and the sure prospect of the consulship. By his vic- 
tories over the Goths he deserved from the senate the honor 
of a statue, and excited the jealous apprehensions of Gal- 
lienus. It was impossible that a soldier could esteem so 
dissolute a sovereign, nor is it easy to conceal a just contempt. 
Some unguarded expressions which dropped from Claudius 
were officiously transmitted to the royal ear. The emperor's 
answer to an officer of confidence describes in very lively 
colors his OAvn character, and that of the times. " There is 
not anything capable of giving me more serious concern, 
than the intelligence contained in your last despatch, 4 that 
some malicious suggestions have indisposed towards us 
the mind of our friend and parent Claudius. As you regard 
your allegiance, use every means to appease his resentment, 
but conduct your negotiations with secrecy ; let it not reach 
the knowledge of the Dacian troops ; they are already pro- 
voked, and it might inflame their fury. I myself have sent 
him some presents ; be it your care that he accept them with 

2 On the death of Gallienus, see Trebellius Pollio in Hist. August p. 181. 
Zosimus, 1. i. p. 37. Zdnaras, 1. xii. p. 634. Eutrop. ix. 11. Aiuehus Victor in 
Eritom Victor in C;csar. 1 have compared and blended them all, but liave 
chiellv followed Aureliufi Victor, who seem '■ to have had the best memoirs. 

;! Some supposed him, oddly enough, to be a bastard of the younger Gor nan. 
Others took advantage of the province of Dardania, to deduce his origin from 
Oardanus. ami the ancient kings of Troy. 

■i No*or,a a periodic il and official dispatch which the emperors received from 
the. frvmentarli, or agents dispersed through the provinces. Of these we may 
speak hereafter. 


pleasure. Above all, let him not suspect that I am made 
acquainted with his imprudence. The fear of my auger might 
urge him to desperate counsels." 5 The presents which ac- 
companied this humble epistle, in which the monarch solici- 
ted a reconciliation with his discontented subject, consisted 
of a considerable sum of money, a splendid wardrobe, and a 
valuable service of silver and gold plate. By such arts Gal- 
lienus softened the indignation and dispelled the fears of his 
Illyrian general ; and during the remainder of that reign the 
formidable sword of Claudius was always drawn in the cause 
of a master whom he despised. At last,, indeed, he received 
from the conspirators the bloody purple of Gallienus : but he 
had been absent from their camr> and counsels ; and however 
lie might applaud the deed, we may candidly presume that 
he was innocent of the knowledge of it. fc When Claudius 
ascended the throne he was about fifty-four years of age. 

The siege of Milan was still continued, and Aureolus soon 
discovered that the success of his artifices had only raised up 
a more determined adversary. He attempted to negotiate 
with Claudius a treaty of alliance and partition. u Tell him," 
replied the intrepid emperor, "that such proposals should 
have been made to Gallienus ; he, perhaps, might have lis- 
tened to them with patience, and accepted a colleague as des- 
picable as himself." This stern refusal, and a last unsuc- 
cessful effort, obliged Aureolus to yield the city and himself 
to the discretion of the conqueror. The judgment of the 
army pronounced him worthy of death ; and Claudius, after 
a feeble resistance, consented to the execution of the sen- 
tence. Nor was the zeal of the senate less ardent in the 
cause of their new sovereign. They ratified, perhaps with a 
sincere transport of zeal, the election of Claudius ; and, as 
his predecessor had shown himself the personal enemy of 
their order, they exercised, under the name of justice, a 
severe revenge against his friends and family. The senate 
was permitted to discharge the ungrateful office of punish- 
ment, and the emperor reserved for himself the pleasure and 
merit of obtaining by his intercession a general act of in- 
demnity. 8 

5 Hist. August, p. 208. Gallienus describes the plate, vestment?, &e., like a 
man who loved and understood those splendid trilles. 

Julian (Orat. i. p. G) alhnns that Claudius acquired the empire in a just and 
even holy manner. But we iu;iy distrust the partiality of a kinsman. 

7 Hist. August, p. 203. There are some trilling differences concerning the 
circumstances of the last defeat and death of Aureolus. 

8 Aurelius Victor in Gallien. The people loudly prayed for the damnation of 


Such ostentatious clemency discovers less of the real char- 
acter of Claudius than a trifling circumstance in which he 
seems to have consulted only the dictates of his heart. The 
frequent rebellions of the provinces had involved almost 
every person in the guilt of treason, almost every estate in 
the case of confiscation ; and Gallienus often displayed his 
liberality by distributing among his officers the property of 
his subjects. On the accession of Claudius, an old woman 
threw herself at his feet, and complained that a general of the 
late emperor had obtained an arbitrary grant of her patri- 
mony. This general was Claudius himself, who had not 
entirely escaped the contagion of the times. The emperor 
blushed at the reproach, but deserved the confidence which 
she had reposed in his equity. The confession of his fault 
was accompanied with immediate and ample restitution. 9 

In the arduous task which Claudius had undertaken of 
restoring the empire to its ancient splendor, it was first neces- 
sary to revive among his troops a sense of order and obedience. 
With the authority of a veteran commander, he represented to 
them that the relaxation of discipline had introduced a long 
train of disorders, the effects of which were at length expe- 
rienced by the soldiers themselves; that a people ruined by 
oppression, and indolent from despair, could no longer supply 
a numerous army with the means of luxury or even of subsist- 
ence; that the danger of each individual had increased with 
the despotism of the military order, since princes who tremble 
on the throne will guard their safety by the instant sacrifice 
of every obnoxious subject. The emperor expatiated on the 
mischiefs of a lawless caprice, which the soldiers could only 
gratify at the expense of their own blood; as their seditious 
elections had so frequently been followed by civil wars, which 
consumed the flowej* of the legions, either in the field of 
battle, or in the cruel abuse of victory. He painted in the 
most lively colors the exhausted state of the treasury, the 
desolation of the provinces, the disgrace of the Roman name, 
and the insolent triumph of rapacious barbarians. It was 
against those barbarians, he declared, that he intended to 
point the first effort of their arms. Tetricus might reign 

Gallienus.* The senate decreed that his relations and servants should be thrown 
down headlong from the Gemoniaii stairs. An obnoxious officer of the revenue 
had his eyes torn out whilst under examination. 
B Zonaras, 1. xii. p. 137. 

* The expression is curious, "terrain matrem deosque inferos precaretur, 
sedes impias uti Gallieno darent."— M. 


for a while over the West, and even Zen obi a might preserve 
the dominion of the East. 10 These usurpers were his per- 
sonal adversaries ; nor could he think of indulging any private 
resentment till he had saved an empire whose impending 
ruin would, unless it was timely prevented, crush both the 
army and the people. 

The various nations of Germany and Sarmatia who 
fought under the Gothic standard had already collected an 
armament more formidable than any which had yet issued 
from the Euxine. On the banks of the Dniester, one of the 
great rivers that discharge themselves into that sea, they 
constructed a fleet of two thousand, or even of six thousand 
vessels; 11 numbers which, however incredible they may 
seem, would have been insufficient to transport their pre- 
tended army of three hundred and twenty thousand bar- 
barians. Whatever might be the real strength of the Goths, 
the vigor and success of the expedition were not adequate 
to the greatness of the preparations. In their passage 
through the Bosphorus the unskilful pilots were overpow- 
ered by the violence of the current ; and while the multi- 
tude of their ships were crowded in a narrow channel, many 
were dashed against each other or against the shore. The 
barbarians made several descents on the coasts both of 
Europe and Asia ; but the open country was already plun- 
dered, and they were repulsed with shame and loss from the 
fortified cities which they assaulted. A spirit of discour- 
agement and division arose in the fleet, and some of their 
chiefs sailed away towards the islands of Crete and Cyprus ; 
but the main body, pursuing a more steady course, anchored 
at length near the foot of Mount Athos, and assaulted the 
city of Thessalonica, the wealthy capital of all the Macedo- 
nian provinces. Their attacks, in which they displayed a 
fierce but artless bravery, were soon interrupted by the 
rapid approach of Claudius, hastening to a scene of action 
that deserved the presence of a warlike prince at the head 
of the remaining powers of the empire. Impatient for 
battle, the Goths immediately broke up their camp, relin- 
quished the siege of Thessalonica, left their navy at the foot 
of Mount Athos, traversed the hills of Macedonia, and 
pressed forwards to engage the last defence of Italy. 

10 on this occasion mentions Posthumus ; but the registers of the sen- 
ate (Hist. August, p. 203) prove that Tetricus was already emperor of the western 

11 The Augustan llisto'-v mentions the smaller, Zona^as the larger, number; 
the li?ely fancy of Montesquieu muuceU him to prefer the latter. 


We still possess an origin al letter addressed by Claudius 
to the senate and people on this memorable occasion. u Con- 
script fathers," says the emperor, " know that three hun- 
dred and twenty thousand Goths have invaded the Roman 
territory. If I vanquish them, your gratitude will rewaid 
my services. Should I fall, remember that I am the suc- 
cessor of Gallienus. The whole republic is fatigued and 
exhausted. We shall fight after Valerian, after Ingenuus, 
Regillianus, Lollianus, Posthumus, Celsus, and a thousand 
others, whom a just contempt for Gallienus provoked into 
rebellion. We are in want of darts, of spears, and of shields. 
The strength of the empire, Gaul, and Spain, are usurped 
by Tetricus, and Ave blush to acknowledge that the archers 
of the East serve under the banners of Zenobia. Whatever 
we shall perform will be sufficiently great." 12 The melan- 
choly firmness of this epistle announces a hero careless of 
his fate, conscious of his danger, but still deriving a well- 
grounded hope from the resources of his own mind. 

The event surpassed his own expectations and those of 
the world. By the most signal victories he delivered the 
empire from this host of barbarians, and was distinguished 
by posterity under the glorious appellation of the Gothic 
Claudius. The imperfect historians of an irregular war 13 
do not enable us to describe the order and circumstances of 
his exploits ; but, if we could be indulged in the allusion, 
we might distribute into three acts this memorable tragedy. 
I. The decisive battle was fought near Naissus, a city of 
Dardania. The legions at first gave way, oppressed by 
numbers, and dismayed by misfortunes. Their ruin was 
inevitable, had not the abilities of their emperor prepared a 
seasonable relief. A large detachment, rising out of the 
secret r.tid difficult passes of the mountains, which, by his 
order, they had occupied, suddenly assailed the rear of the 
victorious Goths. The favorable instant was improved by 
the activity of Claudius. He revived the courage of his 
troops, restored their ranks, and pressed the barbarians on 
every side. Fifty thousand men are reported to have been 
slain in the battle of Naissus. Several large bodies of bar- 
barians, covering there retreat with a movable fortification 
of wagons, retired, or rather escaped, from the field of 
slaughter. II. We may presume that some insurmount- 

12 Trebell. Pollio in Hist. August, p. 204. 

la Hist. August, in Claud. Aurelian, et Prob. Zosiinus, 1. i. pp. 38-42. Zonaras 
1. xii. p. 638. Autel. Victor in Epitoni. Victor Junior in Caesar. Eutrop. Lx. 11. 
Euseb. in Chron. 


able difficulty, the fatigue, perhaps, or the disobedience, of 
the conquerors, prevented Claudius from completing in one 
day the destruction of the Goths. The war was diffused 
over the provinces of Massia, Thrace, and Macedonia, and 
its operations drawn out into a variety of marches, surprises, 
and tumultuary engagements, as well by sea as by land. 
When the Romans suffered any loss, it was commonly 
occasioned by their own cowardice or rashness ; but the 
superior talents of the emperor, his perfect knowledge of 
the country, and his judicious choice of measures as well as 
officers, assured on most occasions the success of his arms. 
The immense booty, the fruit of so many victories, con- 
sisted for the greater part of cattle and slaves. A select 
body of the Gothic youth was received among the Imperial 
troops ; the remainder was sold into servitude ; and so con- 
siderable was the number of female captives that every 
soldier obtained to his share two or three women. A cir- 
cumstance from which we may conclude that the invaders 
entertained some designs of settlement as well as of plunder ; 
since even in a naval expedition they were accompanied by 
their families. III. The loss of their fleet, which was either 
taken or sunk, had intercepted the retreat of the Goths. A 
vast circle of Roman posts, distributed with skill, supported 
with firmness, and gradually closing towards a common 
centre, forced the barbarians into the most inaccessible parts 
of Mount Haemus, where they found a safe refuge, but a 
very scanty subsistence. During the course of a rigorous 
winter, in which they were besieged by the emperor's 
troops, famine and pestilence, desertion and the sword, con- 
tinually diminished the imprisoned multitude. On the 
return of spring, nothing appeared in arms except a hardy 
and desperate band, the remnant of that mighty host which 
had embarked at the mouth of the Dniester. 

The pestilence which swept away such numbers of the 
barbarians at length proved fatal to their conqueror. After 
a short but glorious reign of two years, Claudius expired at 
Sirmium, amidst the tears and acclamations of his subjects. 
In his last illness he convened the principal officers of the 
state and army, and in their presence recommended Aure- 
lian, 14 one of his generals, as the most deserving of the 
throne, and the best qualified to execute the great design 

14 According to Zonaras (1. xii. p. G38), Claudius, before his death, invested 
him with the purple ; hut this singular fact is rather contradicted than confirmed 
by other writers. 


which he himself had been permitted only to undertake. 
The virtues of Claudius, his valor, affability, justice, and 
temperance, his love of fame and of his country, place him in 
that short list of emperors who added lustre to the Roman 
purple- Those virtues, however, were celebrated with 
peculiar zeal and complacency by the courtly writers of the 
age of Constantine, who was the great-grandson of Crispus, 
the elder brother of Claudius. The voice of flattery was 
soon taught to repeat that the gods, who so hastily had 
snatched Claudius from the earth, rewarded his merit and 
piety by the perpetual establishment of the empire in his 
family. 15 

. Notwithstanding these oracles, the greatness of the 
Flavian family (a name which it had pleased them to as- 
sume) was deferred above twenty years, and the elevation 
of Claudius occasioned the immediate ruin of his brother 
Quintijius, who possessed not sufficient moderation or cour- 
age to descend into the private station to which the patriot- 
ism of the late emperor had condemned him. Without 
delay or reflection he assumed the purple at Aquileia, where 
he commanded a considerable force; and though his reign 
lasted only seventeen days,* he had time to obtain the 
sanction of the senate, and to experience a mutiny of the 
troops. As soon as he was informed that the great army of 
the Danube had invested the well-known valor of Aurelian 
with Imperial power, he sunk under the fame and merit of 
his rival ; and, ordering his veins to be opened, prudently 
withdrew himself from the unequal contest. 16 

The general design of this work will not permit us 
minutely to relate the actions of every emperor after he 
ascended the throne, much less to deduce the various for- 
tunes of his private life. We shall only observe that the 
father of Aurelian was a peasant of the territory of Sirmiurn, 
Avho occupied a small farm, the property of Aurelius, a rich 
senator. His warlike son enlisted in the troops as a com- 
mon soldier, successively rose to the rank of a centurion, a 

15 See the Life of Claudius by Pollio, and the Orations of Mamertinus, Eu- 
menius, and Julian. See likewise the Casars of Julian, p. 313. In Julian it was 
not adulation, but superstition and vanity. 

10 Zosimus, 1. i. p. 42- Pollio (Hist. August, p. 107) allows him virtue*, and 
says, that, like Pertinax, he was killed by "the licentious soldiers. According to 
Dexippus, he died of a disease. 

* Such is the narrative of the greater part of the older historians ; but the 
number and variety of his medals seem to require more time, and give proba- 
bility to the report of Zosanus, who makes him reign some months. — G. 

23 ' ' : 


tribune, the prefect of . a legion, the inspeetor of the camp, 
the general, or, as it was then called, the duke, of a frontier; 
and at length, during the Gothic war, exercised the impor- 
tant office of commander-in-chief of the cavalry. In every 
station he distinguished himself by matchless valor, 17 rigid 
discipline, and successful conduct. He was invested with 
the consulship by the emperor Valerian, who styles him, in 
the pompous language of that age, the deliverer of Illyri- 
cum, the restorer of Gaul, and the rival of the Scipios. At 
the recommendation of Valerian, a senator of the highest 
rank and merit, Ulpius Crinitus, whose blood was derived 
from the same source as that of Trajan, adopted the Pan- 
nonian peasant, gave him his daughter in marriage, and 
relieved with his ample fortune the honorable poverty which 
Aurelian had preserved inviolate. 18 

The reign of Aurelian lasted only four years and about 
nine months ; but every instant of that short period was 
filled by some memorable achievement. He put an end to 
the Gothic war, chastised the Germans who invaded Italy, 
recovered Gaul, Spain, and Britain out of the hands of 
Tetricus, and destroyed the proud monarchy which Zcno- 
bia had erected in the East on the ruins of the afflicted 

It was the rigid attention of Aurelian, even to the mi- 
nutest articles of discipline, which bestowed such uninter- 
rupted success on his arms. His military regulations are 
contained in a very concise epistle to one of his inferior 
officers, who is commanded to enforce them, as he wishes to 
become a tribune, or as he is desirous to live. Gaming, 
drinking, and the arts of divination, were severely prohibited. 
Aurelian expected that his soldiers should be modest, frugal, 
and laborious ; that their armor should be constantly kept 
bright, their weapons sharp, their clothing and horses ready 
for immediate service; that they should live in their quar- 
ters with chastity and sobriety, without damaging the 
cornfields, without stealing even a sheep, a fowl, or a bunch 
of grapes, without exacting from their landlords either salt, 
or oil, or wood. " The public allowance," continues the 

17 Theoclins (as quoted in the Augustan History, p. 211) affirms that in one 
day he killed with his own hand forty-eight Sarma : ians, and in several subse- 
quent engagements nine hundred and fifty. This heroic valor was admired by 
the soldiers, and celebrated in their rude songs, the burden of which was mille, 
mille, mille, occhdit. 

*s Acholius (ap. Hist. August, p. 213) describes the ceremony of the adoption, 
as it was performed at Byzantium, in the presjnee of the cuip^.Oi and liii great 


emperor, " is sufficient for their support ; their wealth should 
be collected from the spoils of the enemy, not from the 
tears of the provincials." " ; A single instance will serve to 
display the rigor, and even cruelty, of Aurelian. One of the 
soldiers had seduced the wife of his host. The guilty wretch 
was fastened to two trees forcibly drawn towards each other, 
and his limbs were torn asunder by their sudden separation. 
A few such examples impressed a salutary consternation. 
The punishments of Aurelian were terrible ; but he had sel- 
dom occasion to punish more than once the same offence. 
His own conduct gave a sanction to his laws, and the sedi- 
tious legions dreaded a chief who had learned to obey, and 
who was worthy to command. 

The death of Claudius had revived the fainting spirit of 
the Goths. The troops which guarded the passes of Mount 
HaBmus, and the banks of the Danube, had been drawn away 
by the apprehension of a civil war ; and it seems probable 
that the remaining body of the Gothic and Vandalic tribes 
embraced the favorable opportunity, abandoned their settle- 
ments of the Ukraine, traversed the rivers, and swelled with 
new multitudes the destroying host of their countrymen. 
Their united numbers were at length encountered by Aure- 
lian, and the bloody and doubtful conflict ended only with 
tho approach of night. 20 Exhausted by so many calamities, 
which they had mutually endured and inflicted during a 
twenty years' war, the Goths and the Romans consented to 
a lasting and beneficial treaty. It was earnestly solicited by 
the barbarians, and cheerfully ratified by the legions, to 
whose suffrage the prudence of Aurelian referred the 
decision of that important question. The Gothic nation 
engaged to supply the armies of Rome with a body of two 
thousand auxiliaries, consisting entirely of cavalry, and 
stipulated in return an undisturbed retreat, with a regular 
market as far as the Danube, provided by the emperor's 
care, but at their own expense. The treaty was observed 
with such religious fidelity, that, when a party of five hun- 
dred men straggled from the camp in quest of plunder, the 
king or general of the barbarians commanded that the guilty 
leader should be apprehended and shot to death with darts, 

19 Hist. August, p. 211. This laconic epistle is truly the work of a soldier ; it 
abo-inds with military phrases and words, some of which cannot be understood 
without difficulty. ■ PWramenta sum lata is well explained by Salmasius. The 
former of the words means all weapons of offence, and is contrasted with Anna, 
defensive armor- The latter signities keen and well sharpened. 

23 Zo^imus, 1. i. p. 45. 


as a victim devoted to the sanctity of their engagements.* 
It is, however, not unlikely that the precaution of 
Aurelian, who had exacted as hostages the sons and daugh- 
ters of the Gothic chiefs, contributed something to this 
pacific temper. The youths he trained in the exercise of 
arms, and near his own person : to the damsels lie gave a 
liberal and Roman education, and, by bestowing them in 
marriage on some of his principal officers, gradually intro- 
duced between the two nations the closest and most endear- 

ing connections. 


But the most important condition of peace -was under- 
stood rather than expressed in the treaty. Aurelian with- 
drew the Roman forces from Dacia, and tacitly relinquished 
that great province to the Goths and Vandals.' 22 His manly 
judgment convinced him of the solid advantages, and taught 
him to despise the seeming disgrace, of thus contracting the 
frontiers of the monarchy. The Dacian subjects, removed 
from those distant possessions which they were unable to 
cultivate or defend, added strength and populousness to the 
southern side of the Danube. A fertile territory, which the 
repetition of barbarous inroads had changed into a desert, 
was yielded to their industry, and a new province of Dacia 
still preserved the memory of Trajan's conquests. The old 
country of that name detained, however, a considerable 
number of its inhabitants, who dreaded exile more than 
a Gothic master. 23 These degenerate Romans continued to 
serve the empire, whose allegiance they had renounced, by 
introducing among their conquerors the first notions of 
agriculture, the useful arts, and the conveniences of civil- 
ized life. An intercourse of commerce and lansyuaffe Avas 
gradually established between the opposite banks of the 
Danube ; and, after Dacia became an independent state, it 
often proved the firmest barrier of the empire against the 
invasions of the savages of the North. A sense of interest 
attached these more settled barbarians to the alliance of 

21 Dexippus (ap. Excerpta Legat. p. 12) relates the whole transaction under 
the name of Vandals. Aurelian married one of the Go'.hie ladies to his general 
Bono.-us, who was able to drink with the Goths and discover their secrets. Hist. 
August, p. 247. 

'-- Hist. August, p. 222. Eutrop. ix. 15. Sextus Rufus, c. 9. Lactantius de 
Mortibus Persecutorum. c. 9. 

-i The Wallachians still preserve many traces of the Latin language, ami have 
boasted, in every age, of their Roman descent. They are surrounded by. but not 
mixed with, the'barbavians. See a Memoir of M. d'Anville on ancient Dacia, in 
the Academy of Inscriptions, torn. xxx. 

* The five hundred stragglers were all slain:— M. 


Rome, and a permanent interest very frequently ripens into 
sincere and useful friendship. This various colony, which 
filled the ancient province, and was insensibly blended into 
one great people, still acknowledged the superior renown 
and authority of the Gothic tribe, and claimed the fancied 
honor of a Scandinavian origin. At the same time, the 
lucky though accidental resemblance of the name of Geta3 * 
infused among the credulous Goths a vain persuasion that, 
in a remote age, their own ancestors, already seated in the 
Dacian provinces, had received the instructions of Zamolxis, 
and checked the victorious arms of Sesostris and Darius." 4 

While the vigorous and moderate conduct of Aurelian 
restored the Illyrian frontier, the nation of the Alemanni - 5 
violated the conditions of peace which either Gallienus 
had purchased, or Claudius had imposed, and, inflamed by 
their impatient youth, suddenly new to arms. Forty thou- 
sand horses appeared in the field, 26 and the number of the 
infantry doubled those of the cavalry. 27 The first objects of 
their avarice were a few cities of the Rhaetian frontier ; but 
their hopes soon rising with success, the rapid march of the 
Alemanni traced a line of devastation from the Danube to 
the Po/ 8 

The emperor was almost at the same time informed of 
the irruption, and of the retreat, of the barbarians. Col- 
lecting an active body of troops, he marched with silence 
and celerity along the skirts of the Hercynian forest; and 
the Alemanni, laden with the spoils of Italy, arrived at the 
Danube, without suspecting that on the opposite bank, and 
in an advantageous post, a Roman army lay concealed and 
prepared to intercept their return. Aurelian indulged the 
fatal security of the barbarians, and permitted about half 
their forces to pass the river without disturbance and with- 

•* See the first chapter of Jornandes. The Vandals, however (c. 22), main- 
tained a tdiort independence between the Kivers Marisia and Grissia (Maros and 
Keres), which 1 ell into the Theiss. % 

25 Dexippus, pp. 7-12. Zosnnus, 1. i. p. 43. Vopiscus in Aurelian. in Hist. Au- 
gust. However these historians differ in names (Alemanni, Juthungi, and Mar- 
comanni), it is evident that they mean the same people, and the same war ; but 
it requires some care to conciliate and explain them. 

- G Can 'oel aru s, with his usual accuracy, (horses to translate three hundred 
thousand : his \ersion is equally repugnant to sense and to grammar. 

27 We may remark, as an instance of bad taste, that Dexipous applies to the 
liTht infantry of the Alemanni the technical terms proper only to the Grecian 

- In Dexippus, we at present read Khodanus : M. de Valois very judiciously 
alters the word to Eridanus. 

* The connection between the Getse and the Goths is still, in my opinion, in- 
correctly maintained by some learned writers. — M. 


out precaution. Their situation and astonishment gave him 
an easy victory ; his skilful conduct improved the advantage. 
Disposing the legions in a semicircular form, he advanced 
the two horns of the crescent across the Danube, and, wheel- 
ing them on a sudden towards the centre, enclosed the rear 
of the German host. The dismayed barbarians, on what- 
soever side they cast their eyes, beheld, with despair, a 
wasted country, a deep and rapid stream, a victorious and 
implacable enemy. 

Reduced to this distressed condition,' the Alemanni no 
longer disdained to sue for peace. Anrelian received their 
ambassadors at the head of his camp, and with every circum- 
stance of martial pomp that could display the greatness and 
discipline of Rome. The legions stood to their arms in 
well-ordered ranks and awful silence. The principal com- 
manders, distinguished by the ensigns of their rank, ap- 
peared on horseback on either side of the Imperial throne. 
Behind the throne the consecrated images of the emperor 
and his predecessors, 1 - 9 the golden eagles, and the various 
titles of the legions, engraved in letters of gold, were ex- 
alted in the air on lofty pikes covered with silver. When 
Aurelian assumed his seat, his manly grace and majestic 
figure 30 taught the barbarians to revere the person as well 
as the purple of their conqueror. The ambassadors fell 
prostrate on the ground in silence. They were commanded 
to rise, and permitted to speak. By the assistance of inter- 
preters they extenuated their perfidy, magnified their ex- 
ploits, expatiated on the vicissitudes of fortune and the ad- 
vantages of peace, and, with an ill-timed confidence, de- 
manded a large subsidy, as the price of the alliance which 
they offered to the Romans. The answer of the emperor 
was stern and imperious. He treated their offer with con- 
tempt, and their demand with indignation, reproached the 
barbarians that they were as ignorant of the arts of war as 
of the laws of peace, and finally dismissed them with the 
choice only of submitting to his unconditioned mercy, or 
awaiting the utmost severity of his resentment. 31 Aurelian 
had resigned a distant province to the Goths ; but it was 
dangerous to trust or to pardon these perfidious barba- 

20 The emperor Claudius was certainly of the number ; but we are ignorant 
ho\y far llii ; mark of respect was extended ; if to Caesar and Augu-tus, it must 
have produced a very awful spectacle ; a long line of the masters of the world. 

80 Vopiscus in Hist. August, p. 210. 

31 Dexippus gives them a subtle and prolix oration, worthy of a Grecian 


rians, whose formidable power kept Italy itself in perpetual 

Immediately after this conference it should seem that 
some unexpected emergency required the emperor's pres- 
ence in Pa